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Iraq divided over role of ex-militants

BAGHDAD, March 25 (UPI) -- Sadrist lawmakers in Iraq complain reformed militants slated for political involvement have ties to the former Baath regime of Saddam Hussein.

National Reconciliation Minister Amir al-Khuzaei announced Wednesday the government was in the process of clearing five groups of reformed militants for a political role.

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Hakim Abbas, a lawmaker with the political party loyal to anti-American cleric Moqtada Sadr, said some of the militants are tied to the Baath Party, reports Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Abbas added that his party was planning on calling the reconciliation minister in for questioning.

Iraqi relations with Syria were damaged in August 2009 when Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki blamed Baath Party supporters in Damascus for a series of explosions that rocked Baghdad, killing hundreds.

In an effort to discourage protest in Iraq in February, Maliki warned of the "black days" of Saddam and reminded people of the era when al-Qaida and other terrorist elements created chaos in the country.

Shakir Kitab with the Sunni-backed Iraqiya slate praised the development, however, saying it would add diversity to the political environment in Baghdad.

Several Iraqiya members were sidelined from Iraqi politics last year following allegations many of its members were former Baath Party supporters.

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Reformed militants said during press conference, RFE/RL adds, that they decided to lay down their weapons because U.S. forces were on their way out of Iraq.

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