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US administration reaches out to communists, low-paid Iraqis Wed Jul 16,10:14 AM ET AFP http://tinyurl.com/h65j BAGHDAD (AFP) - Promoting communists, doubling the salaries of the low-paid and banning the death penalty might not sound like the work of a US Republican administration, but then welcome to topsy-turvy post-war Iraq. Among the more surprising choices made by the top US overseer in Iraq, Paul Bremer, known for his neo-conservative leanings, was to allow communist Hamid Majid Mussa to sit on Iraq's new Governing Council. "He has two main concerns: preventing extremists taking the key positions among the Shiites and keeping the economy going," explained one of the international advisors involved in the selection process. "He hesitated at first but became convinced that the communists could prove a counterweight to the imams," he added, asking not to be named. Iraqi Communist Party official Numan Suhayel explains how the selection was made: "The Americans and the British sent a delegation to see us and then Hamid Majid met personally with Paul Bremer," he says. He insists the party's seat on the council has nothing to do with power brokering but reflects the communists' standing in Iraq. Another peculiarity is the abolition of the death penalty. While US President George W. Bush is a known advocate of capital punishment, with Texas under his governorship singled out by human rights groups for its level of executions, US authorities in Iraq have banned the practice. Other surprising decisions include reducing inequality in pay scales for civil servants. Bremer arrived in Baghdad on May 12 to be confronted by thousands of public sector workers unpaid and out of work. One of his first decisions was to double the minimum salary to 50,000 dinars (around 40 dollars) per month. At the same time he cut the top salaries for senior management from 1.2 million dinars (960 dollars) to 500,000 dinars (400 dollars). But one decision that backfired was an attempt to get rid of Iraq's 400,000-strong army with a one-off termination payment. Under threat of armed insurrection, the coalition agreed to pay monthly salaries to former soldiers not in the top tiers of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party. "Bremer's becoming an Iraqi. He's distancing himself more and more from the Bush administration," one international advisor said with a broad grin when asked to account for the top US official's recent "eccentric" decisions. Copyright © 2003 Agence France Presse. Copyright © 2003 Yahoo! Inc. _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email firstname.lastname@example.org All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk