BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) – Interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi said Saturday he signed a long-awaited amnesty law pardoning Iraqis who had committed minor crimes.

The amnesty does not cover accused killers, as U.S. officials originally feared. The amnesty was expected to be a key element in the government’s efforts to end a 15-month-old insurgency, but it attracted controversy when first proposed.

Early drafts of the amnesty would have forgiven most people involved in the insurgency, but U.S. officials were unhappy with the possibility that it could cover those who killed American troops.

The amnesty announced Saturday did not appear to forgive anyone who killed Iraqis, either.

“This law is directed toward individuals who have committed minor crimes and have not yet been apprehended or prosecuted,” Allawi said.

“This amnesty is not for people … who have killed. Those people will be brought to justice.”

Those covered by the amnesty include people possessing light arms and explosives, those who hid intelligence about terrorist groups and people who helped those groups commit crimes, Allawi said.

“This order has been established to allow our citizens to rejoin civil society and participate in the reconstruction of their country and the improvement of their lives, instead of wasting their lives pointlessly toward a lost cause,” he said.

The amnesty would forgive those who committed crimes beginning May 1, 2003, just after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime, he said.

AP-ES-08-07-04 0804EDT

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