updated 7/12/2004 6:35:57 PM ET 2004-07-12T22:35:57

Iraqi interim President Ghazi al-Yawer said Monday that the government would soon offer amnesty to insurgents, but he also vowed to use a “very sharp sword” against anyone threatening the security of the country.

“Terrorism isn’t just killing and blowing up bombs. Whoever threatens the ordinary life of the people is a terrorist,” al-Yawer told reporters during a meeting with Defense Minister Hazem Shaalan and National Guard Brig. Gen. Muther al-Rashardi.

The country has been wracked by violence since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime nearly 15 months ago. Foreign and local insurgents have launched numerous attacks on Iraqi civilian targets and against U.S. forces in attempts to thwart the country’s postwar reconstruction, killing U.S. troops and hundreds of Iraqi civilians.

“We have a very sharp sword ready for anyone who threatens the security of this country,” al-Yawer said.

“We want to tell anyone who wants to threaten the security of this country: ‘Enough,’ I say, ‘Enough. Stop.’”

‘Occupation is over’
Al-Yawer said the roughly 160,000 coalition forces led by the United States were required to stay in the country because of the danger posed by the insurgents, but violent groups should not use this as an excuse to continue attacks.

“Those who claim they are resisting the occupation, the occupation is over now,” he said.

Security officials also sought to reassure Iraqis that they were trying to restore order.

Al-Rashardi said the national guard had divided the capital, Baghdad, into eight sections to make it easier to control and ensure security there.

“We have very big plans to follow this up,” Shaalan said. “We are ready to sacrifice ourselves for our people.”

Amnesty talk
Al-Yawer, a prominent Sunni Muslim whose position is largely ceremonial, said the government planned to announce an amnesty program soon for some of the insurgents in the coming days. He first mentioned the offer in an interview with The Financial Times.

“We are offering an amnesty, definitely, for people who have not committed too many atrocious acts,” al-Yawer was quoted as telling the British newspaper. “Everybody except murderers, rapists and kidnappers.”

However, he also said that “if it’s just the people of this city [Baghdad], some of them killed 10 soldiers, we are offering an amnesty. We have to do that, we have to be brave enough to accept our people and embrace all Iraqis.”

The proposal was first mentioned earlier this month by a spokesman for Allawi, signaling the new government’s desire to distance itself from the U.S.-led occupation. When the amnesty expired, however, al-Yawer said he would work for the death penalty to be reintroduced here.

Capital punishment was suspended during the U.S. occupation. Under Saddam, 114 offenses could garner the death penalty. Al-Yawer said the death penalty would be restricted to serious crimes, such as murder and rape, under the new government.

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