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6/9/04 - DECISION ON IRAQI MILITIAS - 2004-06-09

Iraqi interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has announced an agreement that calls for the elimination of most of Iraq’s independent militias. Mr. Allawi says the decision is “a watershed in establishing the rule of law” in Iraq.

The vast majority of the approximately one-hundred-thousand militia members will either enter civilian life or be integrated into one of the state security services, such as the Iraqi armed forces, the Iraqi police, or the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps. Those who choose to become civilians will receive job training and other benefits.

U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli says that the announcement “argues well for the future of Iraq”:

“This is an important step forward in both national reconciliation, as well as strengthening the capacity of Iraq to provide for its own security, which is a goal that, I think, is foremost in all of our minds, as Iraq moves forward to assume sovereignty and then exercise that sovereignty as fully and effectively as possible over its territory.”

The militias include those affiliated with the Kurdistan Democratic Party, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, the Iraqi National Congress, the Iraqi Hezbollah, and the Iraqi Communist Party. The one notable exception is the Madhi army of extremist Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. The Madhi army has attacked coalition forces and has seized holy sites.

Mr. Ereli says that Sadr is “operating outside the law”:

“There have been discussions between Moqtada al-Sadr and Shiite notables in Iraq, in an effort to remove his militia from government offices, have them lay down their arms and have those elements of Sadr’s militia who have been accused and indicted of crimes, answer for their crimes.”

The exact date for the elimination of the militias is something that has been worked out among the Iraqis themselves. State Department deputy spokesman Ereli says it is an agreement that the coalition can endorse.