Iraq eases restrictions on Baath party members.

Iraq’s parliament met “one of the main political benchmarks set by the United States” today, passing a law “to ease restrictions on mostly Sunni Arab members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath party returning to public life.” Reuters reports:

“The law has been passed. We see it as a very good sign of progress and it will greatly benefit Baathists. It was passed smoothly and opposition was small,” said Rasheed al-Azzawi, a Sunni member of the committee which helped modify some of the language of the law.

The Accountability and Justice bill replaces the De-Baathification law, which Sunnis have long complained amounted to collective punishment against their sect.

The new law will allow thousands of former party members to apply for reinstatement in the civil service and military, while pensions will be given to a smaller group of more senior members still banned from public life.

As recently as last month, when the bill came up for discussion, it “was met with angry protests from Shiite lawmakers.”