Iraqi parliament's monthlong summer break over

Iraq’s parliaments month long break is over but it is not clear whether it would be taking up key benchmark legislation demanded by the U.S.

Meanwhile, an Iraqi appeals court upheld death sentences imposed against "Chemical Ali" al-Majid and two other Saddam Hussein lieutenants convicted of crimes against humanity for their roles a massacre of Kurds, a judge said.

Al-Majid, Saddam's cousin and former defense minister, gained the nickname "Chemical Ali" after poison gas attacks on Kurdish towns in the 1980s.

The Iraqi High Tribunal upheld his death sentence in a majority decision, as well as those of former defense minister Sultan Hashim Ahmad al-Tai and Hussein Rashid Mohammed, appellate court judge Munir Hadad told the AP. Under Iraqi law they must now be executed within the next 30 days.

Parliament in July shrugged off calls from Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to cancel, or at least shorten, the traditional summer pause saying after putting the break off for a month that there was no point waiting any longer for the premier to deliver the legislation.

The session opened with 158 members of 275 present - enough to form quorum, but the agenda was not immediately announced.

The American commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker are due in Washington to report to Congress next week on progress in Iraq since the introduction of 30,000 more American troops, including whether advances are being made toward national reconciliation.

While parliament was in recess, al-Maliki attempted to break the impasse with major Shiite, Sunni Arab and Kurdish leaders in a high-level meeting just over a week ago. It brought al-Maliki together fellow Shiite Vice President Adil Abdul-Mahdi, Sunni Arab Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, the head of the northern autonomous Kurdish region Massoud Barzani and President Jalal Talabani, who is also a Kurd.

They said they agreed in principle on some issues that the U.S. has set as benchmarks for progress, among them holding provincial elections, releasing prisoners held without charge and changing the law preventing many former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party from holding government jobs and elected office.

But no details were released and committees must hash out final versions of legislation to be presented to parliament. Iraqi officials have announced similar deals in the past, only to have them fall apart.

On Monday, however, al-Maliki said the de-Baathification draft law - one of the U.S.'s 18 benchmarks - was ready and would be soon be taken to parliament.

"I believe that the parliament ... will approve it," he said.

Elsewhere Tuesday, the U.S. military said despite anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's declaration last week of a "freeze" on his Mahdi Army militia activities, there have been 11 attacks in Baghdad since last Thursday.

"Among the 11 attacks attributed to criminal militia members are 107mm rocket attacks impacting coalition outposts and residential Baghdad neighborhoods, small arms attacks, the use of the deadly explosively-formed projectiles and one complex attack requiring detailed coordination and planning," the military said in a statement.

In a separate statement, the military said it appears that many "honorable members" of the Mahdi Army are refraining from attacks but that breakaway elements were still fighting.

"A few attacks on coalition forces and innocent Iraqis have continued from areas clearly associated with militia extremists, involving weapons provided by Iran like explosively formed projectiles and rockets," the military said. "Our assumption is that these groups are not honoring Sadr's orders and thus will not be subject to the restraint we have observed for those who are responding to Sadr's orders."

Al-Sadr has reportedly told al-Maliki that if all detained Mahdi Army men are not released by Tuesday, he will "use all military and political means" in response.

To the south, downtown Basra was calm Tuesday after British soldiers abandoned their last outpost there the day before, leaving the country's second largest city largely in the hands of Iranian-backed Shiite militias.

The British base at the city's airport, however, came under fire from some "light indirect fire" from mortars but they caused no damage or injuries, said British spokesman Maj. Mike Shearer.

The U.S. military announced Tuesday that in a single raid the day before, U.S. Special Forces and Iraqi soldiers had captured 46 al-Qaida in Iraq suspects in the northwestern city of Rabiah, breaking up a suspected terrorist cell.

"One of the targeted terrorists is believed to be linked to a brutal attack in Mosul that resulted in the death of seven Iraqi Police, while another detainee is suspected of having financial ties with Syrian intelligence to support the insurgency," the military said. The soldiers searched five buildings and confiscated bomb-making materials and a box of heavy machine-gun ammunition among other items.

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Author`s name Angela Antonova