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BAQOUBA, Iraq — More than 1,000 suspects have so far sought amnesty in a campaign aimed at lower-level insurgents in Diyala province, a provincial official says.

The Iraqi national government halted missions of the Iraqi-led offensive "Good Tidings of Benevolence" during the amnesty, which was to last a week. Provincial government members are trying to extend the amnesty to Friday because of the big response.

"We want to give as many people a chance to surrender and start a new page," said Auf Rahoumi, Diyala’s deputy governor, through a translator at his office here.

Rahoumi, a Sunni, believes many of those surrendering were wrongfully accused of crimes against his government due to frictions among sects. Most of those who step forward are Sunni.

The amnesty is a reconciliation effort that showcases a trustworthy government and saves the time of Iraqi security forces who have been detaining people on wanted lists, he said.

"It shows that the government is on their side," he said.

Insurgents who have committed serious offenses, such as murder, cannot be pardoned, he said.

Local sheiks will take responsibility for those who receive amnesty and sign a promise not to carry weapons against the government again.

Some Iraqis became insurgents as a drought hit the agricultural region and irrigation problems persisted, Rahoumi said.

This problem, coupled with others, has created a vicious cycle of unemployed Iraqis becoming insurgents against the local government, which is therefore hampered in its ability to rebuild basic services for them, he said.

"Most Iraqi people just want to live normal and provide for their family," he said.


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