Army officers who served under ousted dictator Saddam Hussein can return to claim pensions in Iraq and some of lower rank may be able to find employment again in the armed forces, a military spokesman said on Monday.
Many of the leaders of the army under Saddam fled the country after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, fearing they would be arrested or hunted down as members of the once-dominant Baath party.
Defence Ministry spokesman Major-General Mohammed al-Askari said the government wanted to sort out once and for all who may be entitled to a pension as an ex-military member and so was reaching out to former officers abroad.
"We formed a committee in Amman, and also decided to do so in Sanaa, Egypt, Dubai and Damascus. We want former officers to fill in forms so we can create a database of those who want to come back or who want to collect pensions," Askari said.
"Some of them have died."
Askari said some might be allowed to join the new Iraqi army.
Move towards reconciliation
The Iraqi parliament reversed some of the anti-Baathist measures last year, a decision seen as a step toward reconciling Shi'ite Muslims with Sunnis, but the Shi'ite-led government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has been slow to implement the changes.
Askari said Baghdad was not trying to lure senior officers back into the armed forces.
"We may possibly need some lower ranks such as majors and captains," he said. "Higher ranks we probably don't need. The Iraqi army is a small one now, not a big one."
According to current legislation, only officers ranked lieutenant colonel and below can rejoin the army; more senior former officers such as colonels and generals must retire.
"The purpose of this is to close the file on the former army in order to establish retirement rights for those who are not going to rejoin the army, " Askari said.
He added that this did not represent any kind of amnesty for senior former Baathists associated with crimes or repression under Saddam. The laws governing the conditions under which former Baath party members could return to state employment took precedence, he said.