Iraq bars 14 politicians, parties
BAGHDAD - FOURTEEN Iraqi politicians and parties linked to Saddam Hussein's Baath party have been barred from taking part in March elections, in a blow for efforts towards national reconciliation.
The decision to ban them from the polls, the second since Saddam's ouster after a US-led invasion in 2003, was made by Iraq's Independent Commission for Justice and Accountability in a bid to purge parties alleged to have been sponsored by diehard elements of the banned Baath party.
Among the most prominent politicians banned was Saleh al-Mutlak, a secular Sunni lawmaker who heads the National Dialogue Front. 'It is clear that this decision is against the law and the constitution,' Mr Mutlak told a press conference at his party's headquarters in central Baghdad.
'We will go to the Iraqi courts and we will try to deal with this issue through the appeals court. If the courts are not exposed to political pressure, we are sure that we will win.'
He added: 'We are fighters, and we will continue to fight (if the appeal fails).' Any appeal would be heard by a federal court, and it was not immediately clear how long it would take for a ruling to be made.
Mahmud Othman, an independent Kurdish MP, said the decision would harm efforts towards national reconciliation, seen as key to reducing instability in a country that was engulfed in sectarian bloodshed in 2006 and 2007. 'This will not help reconciliation,' Mr Othman told AFP. 'If someone, even if he is a Baathist, if he is not a criminal, if he has not been a leader in the past regime, so what if he is a Baathist? He can still come and work. This has been politicised.' -- AFP