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Originally published Thursday, January 7, 2010 at 7:40 PM

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Iraq to ban 15 parties from next elections

At least 15 parties will be banned from parliamentary elections because they have been linked to Saddam Hussein's Baath party or have promoted Baathist ideals, Iraqi officials said Thursday — a blow to hopes of bringing opposition figures into the political fold, part of the U.S. strategy to bolster the government.

The Washington Post

BAGHDAD — At least 15 parties will be banned from parliamentary elections because they have been linked to Saddam Hussein's Baath party or have promoted Baathist ideals, Iraqi officials said Thursday.

The decision by the Justice and Accountability Commission, in charge of cleansing high-level Baathists from the ranks of the government and security forces, seemed to be an attempt to purge candidates with links to the old political order, many of whom are popular among secular nationalist voters.

The move is a blow to hopes of bringing opposition figures — who turned to violent resistance during the past seven years — into the political fold, part of the U.S. strategy to bolster the government.

"The reaction from the street will be very strong," said Saleh Mutlak, a popular Sunni lawmaker who joined forces with Ayad Allawi, a secular Shiite and former Baathist with links to the CIA. Mutlak's party, the Iraqi National Dialogue Front, was among those barred from fielding candidates in the parliamentary elections, scheduled for March 7.

Mutlak accused Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of attempting to sideline him politically. On Thursday, he confined himself to his hotel in the heavily fortified Green Zone after rumors of an assassination attempt. He said he plans to appeal the decision by the Justice and Accountability Commission in court.

Ali Lami, general director of the Justice and Accountability Commission, said the panel decided to ban Mutlak's party because he had made statements in support of the Baathists.

In a related development, a series of blasts killed six people in Iraq's western province of Anbar on Thursday, a police official said, in the latest attack to hit the province that was once the heartland of the al-Qaida-led insurgency.

Col. Fadhil Nimrawi said one explosion targeted a house belonging to Lt. Col. Walid Slaiman, director of the anti-terrorism unit in Hit, about 85 miles west of Baghdad. A second explosion targeted the home of his father next door. Slaiman was wounded and his mother, two sisters, another relative and a child were killed.

Nimrawi said a lawyer was killed by another bomb at his home and a fourth bomb exploded at the home of a police officer, injuring him as he slept.

Seven people were injured in the bombings, Nimrawi said.

Material from The Associated Press is included in this report.

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