- The Washington Times - Monday, June 26, 2006

U.S. officials of both parties warned yesterday that an Iraqi government offer of amnesty for insurgents should not include those who have killed U.S. military personnel.

“Absolutely,” said Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat, when asked on “Fox News Sunday” whether amnesty should be denied in such cases.

“For heaven’s sake, we liberated that country. We got rid of a horrific dictator,” said Mr. Levin, who voted against the 2003 Iraq war resolution. “We’ve paid a tremendous price. More than 2,500 Americans have given up their lives. The idea that they should even consider talking about amnesty for people who have killed people who liberated their country is unconscionable.”

Sen. Chuck Hagel, Nebraska Republican, appearing on CNN’s “Late Edition,” said, “To talk about amnesty blanket unconditional for everyone, I think, is premature.”

Sen. Russ Feingold, Wisconsin Democrat, speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press” said, “The idea of amnesty for people that have attacked or killed American troops, I think that’s unacceptable.”

However, Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell told ABC’s “This Week” he doesn’t think the new Iraqi government intends to offer any such amnesty. “I think the national security adviser in the government made it clear that that’s not what they had in mind. And we don’t expect that to happen,” Mr. McConnell said.

The 24-point reconciliation plan offered yesterday by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki would offer amnesty to insurgents and political opponents not involved in terrorist activities. The plan does not specify whether insurgents who killed U.S. troops would be eligible under the offer.

However, Mr. al-Maliki denied his plan includes amnesty for those guilty of killing Americans or Iraqis.

In an interview with the Associated Press in Baghdad, Mr. al-Maliki said, “The launch of this national reconciliation initiative should not be read as a reward for the killers and criminals or acceptance of their actions. No, one thousand times no. There can be no agreement with them unless they face the justice.”

Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. ambassador to Iraq, did not address amnesty specifically but told reporters that the insurgents should accept Mr. al-Maliki’s offer.

“The leaders of Iraq’s various communities should truly be leaders to their people and begin to take responsibility for bringing sectarian violence to an end,” Mr. Khalilzad said. “I urge the insurgents to lay down their arms and join the democratic process initiated by their fellow Iraqis.”

“The national reconciliation will be difficult to implement in the near term, but in the longer period of time it is the right strategic move,” he said.

White House spokesman Ken Lisaius said, “We welcome this initiative by the Iraqi government,” but he cautioned that “reconciliation must be an Iraqi process, led by Iraqis.”

Moreover, Republican senators also acknowledged that the Iraqi government is now fully sovereign and has to decide this issue itself.

Sen. John W. Warner, Virginia Republican and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told “Fox News Sunday” that “I’m personally strongly against any amnesty.” But Mr. Warner, who voted for the war, also said he had to hold back his criticism some because the U.S. must “recognize their sovereignty and it is a consultative process.”

Mr. Hagel said, “This is going to be a difficult issue because I think al-Maliki does need some options here and flexibility and options. After all, they are a sovereign government now.”

Newsweek magazine has reported that Mr. al-Maliki’s amnesty deal could include insurgents who detonated roadside bombs against American vehicles.

“That’s unacceptable,” said Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat.

Mr. Durbin and other Democrat senators have accused their Republican colleagues and the White House of blocking a resolution that expressed opposition to amnesty for insurgents who killed Americans. “Just think of the lives that we have put on the line for the future of this nation and that those who are responsible for killing our soldiers would not be held accountable is not acceptable,” Mr. Durbin said.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, California Democrat, said, “For three days, the Republican filibustered at, wouldn’t let us vote on that.”

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