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Saddam top aide urges insurgents enter politics

Iraqi Baath leader wants political participation

The fugitive leader of Saddam Hussein's Baath party called on Saturday all armed and unarmed groups fighting the foreign presence in the country to engage in politics, suggesting a possible shift away from armed struggle.

Izzat al-Douri's statement posted on the Baath Party and Resistance website, urged the formation of a "national, political or supreme leadership council to include all armed and unarmed resistance powers."

His message comes a month after U.S. forces withdrew from Iraqi urban centers, the first step in a bilateral security pact that had many insurgents claiming victory over U.S. forces. U.S. troops are supposed to withdraw fully by 2012.

"(The council's) first goal is to unify a political stance, speeches and media, and to ... promote it in order for it to take the role it deserves, especially after the historical victory of the resistance," the statement said.

Douri, who took over party leadership after Saddam's execution, had previously said he has no quarrel with Iraqi government forces, leaving a question mark over his future plans and that of his supporters after U.S. troops leave.

It is unclear how much influence Douri has over the plethora of Sunni insurgent groups operating in the country, but the Iraqi government often blames former Baathists for bomb attacks.

American officials see greater participation of Iraq's Sunni Arab minority in politics as key to reconciling Iraq's feuding and sectarian and ethnic groups and ensuring stability holds when U.S. troops leave.

Sunni Arabs have criticized Iraq's Shiites led government for dragging its feet in embracing former members of the Baath party, and many accuse the government of sidelining Sunnis.

The Iraqi government says it is reaching out to former Baathists, but not those with blood on their hands.

Led by Saddam from 1979-2003, the Baath party brutally oppressed Iraq's Shiites and Kurds. Douri was Saddam's deputy.

Douri called for compensation for U.S. occupation and the release of Iraqi prisoners.

First goal is to unify a political stance, speeches and media, and to ... promote it in order for it to take the role it deserves, especially after the historical victory of the resistance

Izzat al-Douri