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World News

Senior Iraq official urges respect of Saddam's army

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq’s Sunni Arab parliament speaker called on Tuesday for members of the Iraqi military under former leader Saddam Hussein to be respected for their sacrifices and have their pensions increased.

His remarks were published in a statement likely to jar with Iraqi government officials, who are mostly from the Shi’ite Muslim sect persecuted by Saddam’s Sunni-led military.

“Parliamentary speaker Ayad al-Samarai stressed that the sacrifices and efforts of officers of the previous army to defend their country be respected,” his office said in a statement, in which he also urged that their pensions be raised.

The United States dissolved Iraq’s army soon after its invasion in 2003, a move which instantly created thousands of angry and unemployed armed men, fueling the bloody insurgency that gripped Iraq in subsequent years.

It has since tried to rectify the damage by urging Iraq’s Shi’ite leaders to reconcile with Sunni Arabs.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has said former members of Saddam’s regime and party can reconcile, but only if they renounce the party and if they have no blood on their hands.

The government has taken steps to reverse the purge of members of the now banned party, but some accuse it of dragging its feet on reconciliation. Iraqi officials often blame Baath party loyalists for bomb attacks.

Reporting by Muhanad Mohammed, Writing by Mohammed Abbas

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