Iraq’s parliament has taken a major step towards reconciling warring sects within the country by voting to allow members of Sadam Hussein’s Baath Party to return to government jobs.
The move, supported by Washington, is being seen as correcting a major mistake which has fuelled the violence in today’s Iraq.
Not only did the de-Baathification process, instituted after the US-led invasion, lead to mass unemployment for officials but it also destroyed the institutions which had governed the country for years.
Under Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship, joining the party was the only way to have a career – at one time an estimated 1.5 million Iraqis are thought to have been members.
The party’s influence was felt in all aspects of life and was dominated by Sunni Iraqis.
Saturday’s vote is part of a wider effort to end the deadlock which has seen the main Sunni Arab bloc pull out of the Shi’ite-led government.
The US hopes the move will draw the minority Sunni community back into the political process.