BAGHDAD, Feb. 23 (UPI) -- The de-Baathification effort unsettling the political scene ahead of parliamentary elections in Iraq has made its way to the provincial level, officials said.
Former Washington favorite Ahmed Chalabi's Justice and Accountability Commission in January banned several influential Sunni leaders from taking part in March parliamentary elections because of alleged ties to the outlawed Baath Party of Saddam Hussein.
Iraqi Vice President Iyad Allawi, a secular Shiite and former Baathist from the 1950s, said the Chalabi campaign is no different from the heavy-handed tactics of the Saddam era in Iraq.
Kamel al-Zaydi, a provincial leader in Baghdad, said his officials launched a local JAC to examine the leadership for possible links to the Baath Party, the Iraqi analytical Web site Niqash reports.
"The committee will file lawsuits against Baathists accused of crimes according to complaints and will submit proofs and evidences to convict those Baathists," said Zaydi.
Anti-Baathist sentiment in Iraq escalated last year when Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki blamed Baath Party loyalists in Damascus for a string of bombings in downtown Baghdad.
In the Shiite south, meanwhile, provincial leaders examined the records of civil servants in an attempt to purge Baathists from the local government.
Washington expressed concern that the de-Baathification effort is a sign of a growing Iranian influence in Iraq, though officials said the matter is largely an internal affair.