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Baathist orders end to Sunni attacks

BAGHDAD, Iraq – Saddam Hussein’s former second in command, now a fugitive with a $10 million bounty on his head, has ordered Sunni insurgents loyal to the former president to cease attacks, according to government and parliamentary officials who claimed knowledge of the developments.

Four officials in the Iraqi government and parliament, each in a position to hear about largely secret efforts to reach accord with members of the Sunni insurgency, said former Iraqi Vice President Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri has ordered insurgent leaders who are linked to Saddam’s ousted Baath Party to end attacks within the past two days.

The officials, who said they knew about the order independently because of their contacts with members of the insurgency, said the directive was issued through couriers sometime after Saddam was sentenced on Sunday to hang for crimes against humanity. The four answered questions from the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the information.

It was impossible to verify the statements independently and too early to know if the reported order would have any effect on the war. Former Baathists are thought to be a major component of Sunni resistance to the Shiite-led Iraqi government and foreign forces, but not the only component.

In a major concession to insurgents and the Sunni community Monday, the government agreed to legislation that would reinstate Baathist officials to positions of responsibility. The Baathist officials had been purged from their jobs in the first days of the U.S. occupation.

The U.S. military did not respond to queries about whether American forces had detected a diminution in insurgent attacks by fighters loyal to Saddam.

The reported al-Douri order coincided as well with talks taking place in Jordan between Americans and insurgent groups, including Baath Party officials, according to several of Iraq’s Sunni lawmakers and government officials.

One Sunni lawmaker said the Baathists told U.S. officials they realized they could not take back control of government but that the fighting could not stop without their agreement. The parliament member suggested that Baathists were trying to strike a deal for amnesty or leniency.