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Saddam wants to pardon Iraqis who fled during 1991 gulf war

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- Saddam Hussein says Iraqis who left the country illegally following the 1991 gulf war should be pardoned, state media reported.

The Iraqi president's recommendation to the Revolutionary Command Council, issued Sunday by the official Iraqi News Agency, aims to lure back citizens with advanced degrees just as the United Nations considers proposals for lifting sanctions imposed on Iraq after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait.The number of Iraqi citizens abroad exceeds 2 million.

Iraq set many restrictions on leaving the country in order to keep experts in Iraq, but the high cost of living and the low salaries forced many to find ways out.

Some forged passports, changing their profession on their documents to a job that would not detain them in Iraq. Others sneaked across the border into neighboring countries, taking their documents with them to seek better employment abroad.

The recommendation is not a law yet but is likely to be approved since Saddam heads both the Cabinet and the council.

INA said Saddam is also concentrating on increasing revenues from hard currency in preparation for the suspension of sanctions.

U.N. Security Council members Russia, China and France are working on a proposal to end all economic sanctions once a system to monitor Iraq's weapons programs is in place. A British-Dutch proposal for the conditional suspension of sanctions has been criticized by the Iraqi foreign minister.