Members of Congress on Sunday denounced any Iraqi plan that would grant amnesty to insurgents responsible for the deaths of U.S. troops.
As part of a plan to mend sectarian strife, Iraq’s prime minister has proposed extending amnesty to insurgents and opposition figures who have not been involved in terrorist activities.
Lawmakers are still trying to ascertain the details of the reconciliation plan that Nouri al-Maliki released on Sunday. It came out after a week of intense debate in Washington over the deployment of U.S. forces and political posturing on the war months before November’s elections.
Michigan Sen. Carl Levin, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said extending amnesty to anyone responsible for killing U.S. troops was “unconscionable.”
“For heaven’s sake, we liberated that country,” Levin said on “Fox News Sunday.” “We got rid of a horrific dictator. 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. John Warner, R-Va., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that while he opposes amnesty, the United States must respect Iraq’s sovereign right to decide its own future.
He said the U.S. government will not dictate, but will consult with Iraqi officials on all aspects of the plan.
“I want the Iraqi people to take this decision unto themselves and make it correctly,” Warner said. “And I hope it comes out … no amnesty for anyone who committed an act of violence, of war crimes.”
In presenting the plan to the Iraqi parliament, al-Maliki said Sunday that insurgent killers would not escape justice regardless of whether their victims were Iraqis or U.S.-led coalition forces.
“The launch of this national reconciliation initiative should not be read as a reward for the killers and criminals or acceptance of their actions,” he said.
The White House welcomed the initiative, yet did not comment specifically on Iraqi plans to embrace certain insurgents, saying the plan was still being developed.
“Reconciliation must be an Iraqi process, led by Iraqis,” White House spokesman Ken Lisaius said. “We, of course, stand by, ready to assist in this effort _ if the Iraqis request our help. But it’s important to note that this is the first step, and it’s a process that will take time to fully develop.”
Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said on ABC’s “This Week” said he does not believe the Iraqi government intends to grant amnesty to people who killed Americans.
Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., said if there is to be peace in Iraq, al-Maliki must find a formula for moving forward that is acceptable to all. “I’m hopeful that one of elements of the formula that he presents to the Sunnis is not amnesty because that is going to run into solid opposition, obviously, in the United States,” Lugar, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., urged President Bush to get a commitment from al-Maliki that there will be no amnesty for anyone who has killed U.S. troops.
© 2006 The Associated Press