Governing Council May Reinstate Baath Party Members

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The U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council (search) said Tuesday it would study the reinstatement of members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party (search) to their jobs, the council said.

The council said ministries would form committees examine whether employees who once belonged to the now-outlawed party should be reinstated to their civil service jobs.

On May 16, the top U.S. civilian administrator, L. Paul Bremer (search), issued a decree barring top-ranking Baath Party members from any public position, a process now referred to as deBaathification -- whether in universities, hospitals or minor government posts.

Since then, ministries and government departments have seen a purging of dozens of Baathists.

During the 34-year-rule of the Baath Party, as many as 1.5 million of Iraq's 24 million people were members. But only about 25,000 to 50,000 had full-fledged party positions -- the elite targeted by U.S. officials.

The Baath Party was founded in neighboring Syria in 1943 and spread quickly across the Arab world, promoting Arab unity with a repressive, Soviet-style party structure. It ruled Iraq for several months in 1963, and then took full control of the country in 1968. Through the years, though, it lost much of its original ideology and gradually became little more than a tool for Saddam Hussein's control over Iraq.

The decision also said employees included in the deBaathification law were now allowed to apply for "early retirement benefits."