Hundreds of ex-army officers under the ousted president Saddam Hussein have gathered Wednesday at a Baghdad military base to sign up to return to the army, or to be pensioned off.
On June 8, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki ordered to reinstate the former army officers during a visit to the northern Iraqi Sunni province of Nineveh.
Lieutenant General Raad Hashim, Deputy Chief of Staff of the current Iraqi army told reporters that Maliki's initiative to reinstate the ex-officers "will only exclude those who cooperated with the terrorists, those who are wanted for criminal charges, and those who are under the rule of the Accountability and Justice Commission (AJC)."
AJC, previously known as the Debaathification Commission, is a body in charge with vetting Saddam Hussein's Baath party members from the political life in Iraq.
The former officers, some old men in their 60s and 70s, have gathered at the army base located at an abandoned airport of al- Muthanna in central Baghdad.
"This is a step in the right direction. To bring back those experienced officers as long as we are willing to serve our country," Ali Dawood, 50, a colonel in the ex-army told Xinhua.
"I believe many of us are helpful to the government efforts in fighting terrorism in the country like what happened two days ago when hundreds of our people were killed and wounded," Dawood said, referring to the spate of deadly attacks on Tuesday which reportedly were carried out by al-Qaida militants and claimed the lives of at least 80 people and wounding more than 280.
Some ex-officers, particularly the old ones, have come to the base to claim retirement and pension as they are no more capable of serving in the army.
"Maliki's decision came too late. It is only motivated by the national reconciliation after Bremer's decision to dissolve the army destroyed our lives," an ex-officer, 61, who preferred to name himself Abu Tha'ir, told Xinhua.
In May 2003, Paul Bremer, the head of the then Coalition Provincial Authority (CPA) decided to dissolve Saddam Hussein's army and several other security bodies.