WASHINGTON – U.S. lawmakers called a proposal to give amnesty to Iraq's insurgents a "get out of jail free" policy, and demanded that President Bush reject the plan.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's proposed reconciliation plan would grant amnesty to insurgents and opposition figures who have not been involved in terrorist activities. Al-Maliki said he hoped the plan would ease sectarian violence in Iraq.
Al-Maliki announced the plan on Sunday, 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.
"Despite the fact that we have now received two credible reports that the Iraqi government is actively considering giving amnesty to those who kill American soldiers, President Bush and the Republican Congress have refused to join with Senate Democrats to denounce this terrible policy, proposing instead that we 'respect Iraqi sovereignty,'" Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told FOX News.
"We call upon President Bush and Republican leaders to join with us immediately to send a clear and unmistakable signal to the Iraqi government that we strongly oppose any effort to provide a get out of jail free card to those who kill or injure our brave troops," Reid continued.
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."
In Baghdad, meanwhile, a report early Monday surfaced that said seven Sunni Arab insurgent groups had contacted the government to declare their readiness to join in efforts at national reconciliation.
The Associated Press reported that seven lesser insurgent groups, most of them believed populated by former members or backers of Saddam Hussein's government, military or security agencies, contacted al-Maliki's Dawa Party and said they wanted a truce. The report could not be independently verified.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner, R-Va., said the U.S. government will work 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.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.