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Cleric Seeks Truce to End Najaf Fighting (Negotiation continues )
The Las Vegas Sun ^ | August 13, 2004 at 16:32:44 PDT | TODD PITMAN

Posted on 08/13/2004 8:27:39 PM PDT by Ernest_at_the_Beach

NAJAF, Iraq (AP) -

0813najaf-truce Aides to Muqtada al-Sadr negotiated with Iraqi officials Friday over a truce to end nine days of fighting in this holy city, saying the radical Shiite cleric was prepared to disarm his followers in exchange for a list of demands including U.S. withdrawal from Najaf and an amnesty for all his fighters.

The talks came as U.S. forces suspended a major offensive against militants in Najaf and al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia appeared to stop most attacks in the city.

Before the pause in the fighting, aides to the cleric said al-Sadr was slightly injured early Friday, suffering shrapnel wounds to the face, chest and shoulder as he met with followers near the revered Imam Ali Shrine, where many of the militants were hiding. But Secretary of State Colin Powell said he could not confirm that al-Sadr was wounded.

U.S. troops and Iraqi officials want to ensure that any new truce would eliminate the flaws of the previous truces, including one that ended a two-month uprising in early June. Al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia repeatedly violated that cease-fire, shooting at police and burying caches of weapons in Najaf's vast cemetery and using the time to regroup, according to U.S. officials and witnesses.

In Washington, Powell said he hoped the insurgent leader would respond "in due course" to charges placed against him by Iraqi authorities. An Iraqi judge has released an arrest warrant for al-Sadr in connection with the death of a moderate Shiite leader, Abdul Maid al-Khoel, in April 2003, two days after the fall of Baghdad. Al-Sadr denies any role in the murder.

Powell denounced al-Sadr and his militia as outlaws and said U.S. forces were "squeezing" Najaf in an effort to end the fighting.

U.S. officials were not involved in Friday's talks, Iraqi officials said. Iraqi National Security Adviser Mouwaffaq al-Rubaie and Defense Minister Hazem Shalan were among the officials negotiating with al-Sadr's aides.

One of the cleric's assistants, Ahmed al-Shaibany, described the talks as "serious and positive, but difficult."

Another, Sheik Ali Smeisim, said al-Sadr wanted a U.S. withdrawal from Najaf, the freeing of all Mahdi Army fighters in detention and an amnesty for the militants, among other demands, in exchange for his disarming his followers and ending the fighting.

Despite the talks, al-Sadr lashed out at the United States, which he said was intent on "occupying the whole world." The fiery sermon was read on his behalf during Friday prayers at the Kufa Mosque near Najaf.

"The presence of occupation in Iraq has made our country an unbearable hell," he said, calling on Iraqis to rebel, "because I will not allow another Saddam-like government again."

Najaf, which had rattled with explosions and gunfire since Aug. 5, was quiet by Friday afternoon. U.S. tanks were seen pulling back from some streets, and no U.S. or Iraqi forces were visible in the city center. The U.S. military said it was maintaining a loose cordon around the Old City, the cemetery and the Imam Ali Shrine.

The Americans had announced the start of a major offensive to rout the insurgents Thursday, and the fighting in the city had threatened to infuriate Iraq's Shiite majority.

"We do not in any way wish to get involved with the mosque," Powell said. "It's a very holy place for all Shia."

Despite the tacit cease-fire, Iraqis held demonstrations Friday in support of al-Sadr in cities across the country. In Baghdad, thousands of protesters, including some police officers, gathered outside the fortified enclave housing the U.S. Embassy and government offices and prayed in the street.

Meanwhile, a series of airstrikes Friday in the volatile Sunni city of Fallujah killed eight people and wounded 16 others, said Abdel Wahab Ahmed from Fallujah hospital.

The U.S. military did not immediately comment, but U.S. forces have repeatedly hit the militant stronghold 40 miles west of Baghdad with airstrikes.

Also Friday, the new U.N. envoy to Iraq arrived in Baghdad to set up the international body's first official presence here since a series of deadly bombings forced it out last year.

Ashraf Jehangir Qazi's primary task is to help Iraqis establish a constitutionally elected government by Dec. 31, 2005. He met Friday with interim President Ghazi al-Yawer and interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi and appealed for a peaceful resolution to the Najaf crisis.

The violence in Najaf has spread to other Shiite communities in Iraq.

In the southern city of Basra, militants briefly kidnapped British journalist James Brandon and threatened to kill him if U.S. troops did not leave Najaf. He was freed after al-Sadr's aides condemned the kidnapping.

Brandon, 23, a freelance reporter, was abducted Thursday night when a group of masked gunmen stormed the Diafa Hotel and pulled him from his room. They beat him, threatened him and pretended they were about to execute him, pointing an unloaded gun at his head and pulling the trigger, he said.

They sent out a video Friday morning showing him scared and bare chested with a bandage around his head, but released him at al-Sadr's local office in the afternoon.

"They just told me they realized I was a journalist and they said I was going to be let go," Brandon told The Associated Press. "I didn't quite believe it until it actually happened."

Before Thursday, the U.S. military has estimated that hundreds of insurgents had been killed in the Najaf fighting since it began last week, but the militants dispute the figure. Six Americans have been killed, along with about 20 Iraqi officers, it said.

The U.S. military said it suspended offensive operations at 7 a.m. Friday because of the truce talks.

"We are allowed to engage the enemy only in self defense and long enough to break contact," said U.S. Maj. Bob Pizzitola. "That was a blanket order for everybody."

"Hopefully the talks will go well and everything will be resolved peacefully," he said.

---

Associated Press writer Abdul Hussein al-Obeidi contributed to this report.

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TOPICS: Extended News; Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: iraq; najaf; sadr

1 posted on 08/13/2004 8:27:40 PM PDT by Ernest_at_the_Beach
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To: Ernest_at_the_Beach

He's not a cleric, but rather a fool and a thug.


2 posted on 08/13/2004 8:29:44 PM PDT by jimfree (Never did no wanderin' after all.)
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To: Ernest_at_the_Beach

When we sending in Jimmy Carter?


3 posted on 08/13/2004 8:30:09 PM PDT by freedom44
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To: freedom44

"The Jews are to blame"

4 posted on 08/13/2004 8:31:46 PM PDT by zarf
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To: Ernest_at_the_Beach
These negotiations with Sadr are useless. Whatever agreements he reaches. he breaks. And people die as a result. Plus, he began his clawing to the top by assassinating another cleric, both more rational and more respected than him.

The only way this negotiation with him should end, is with a half ounce of high speed lead between his bushy eyebrows. Whether that is Iraqi or American lead is still an open question. Iraqi is geopolitically preferable. But either will suffice.

Congressman Billybob

Latest column, "Says the Wuss: Ma, He's Touching Me"

If you haven't already joined the anti-CFR effort, please click here.

5 posted on 08/13/2004 8:33:34 PM PDT by Congressman Billybob (www.ArmorforCongress.com Visit. Join. Help. Please.)
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To: Congressman Billybob
These negotiations with Sadr are useless.

These negotiations are useful in terms of establishing the authority (military and civil) of Baghdad.

6 posted on 08/13/2004 8:36:16 PM PDT by zarf
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To: Ernest_at_the_Beach
"We do not in any way wish to get involved with the mosque," Powell said.

IMO, bad policy. Take the gloves off! Why are we being so "sensitive"? 3 or 4 2000 pounders and the problem is taken care of.

7 posted on 08/13/2004 8:36:45 PM PDT by bellevuesbest
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To: zarf; Congressman Billybob

i think we should deport him to his handlers, the Iranians!


8 posted on 08/13/2004 8:38:45 PM PDT by Ernest_at_the_Beach (A Proud member of Free Republic ~~The New Face of the Fourth Estate since 1996.)
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To: Ernest_at_the_Beach
aides to the cleric said al-Sadr was slightly injured early Friday, suffering shrapnel wounds to the face, chest and shoulder...

Rush commented that Sadr had put himself up for a purple heart from the U.S. military - lol

9 posted on 08/13/2004 8:39:24 PM PDT by bjcintennessee (Don't Sweat the Small Stuff)
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To: Ernest_at_the_Beach

kill the rat bastards, they tried this once before! dont trust the mothereffer


10 posted on 08/13/2004 8:39:39 PM PDT by Remington Rebel
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To: Ernest_at_the_Beach

Kill him ASAP.


11 posted on 08/13/2004 8:40:36 PM PDT by Aslan527
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To: Ernest_at_the_Beach
Sheik Ali Smeisim, said al-Sadr wanted a U.S. withdrawal from Najaf, the freeing of all Mahdi Army fighters in detention and an amnesty for the militants, among other demands, in exchange for his disarming his followers and ending the fighting.

Oh of course..anything else???..I guess our troops are getting weary of killing your scumbag 'militia'..would you like to spend this weekend at Disney World??? (which would be great since hurricane Charley just went thru it..)

12 posted on 08/13/2004 8:47:17 PM PDT by BerniesFriend
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To: zarf
Would it have helped establish the civil and governmental authority of the US to have negotiated with Bonnie and Clyde? Sadr is a multiple murderer, a serial liar, and he's trying to muscle his way into the government over the dead bodies of other people.

His death will do better for his nation than any aspect of his continued, miserable, corrupt, irreligious life.

John / Billybob

13 posted on 08/13/2004 8:53:32 PM PDT by Congressman Billybob (www.ArmorforCongress.com Visit. Join. Help. Please.)
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To: bellevuesbest

Right on! Blow the stinking mosque! Once the citizens of Iraq realize that terrorists hiding in mosques = no more mosque, there wont be any more terrorists hiding in mosques.


14 posted on 08/13/2004 8:54:33 PM PDT by wyattearp (The best weapon to have in a gunfight is a shotgun - preferably from ambush.)
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To: Ernest_at_the_Beach
U.S. forces suspended a major offensive

I'm not there, my @$$ isn't on the line, so I guess it's easy for me to be a keyboard kommando...but I think this sucks.

I'd like to hear what the troops/marines on the ground think of this.

15 posted on 08/13/2004 8:58:02 PM PDT by fourdeuce82d
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To: fourdeuce82d

USA leadership WHIMPS out again.


16 posted on 08/13/2004 9:11:37 PM PDT by jocko12
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To: zarf

Sounds to me like the negotiations are establishing Sadr's authority rather than that of the interim gov't


17 posted on 08/13/2004 9:17:14 PM PDT by vbmoneyspender
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To: jocko12

Why do we keep giving into these requests? We've got the little prick cornered, he's not going anywhere, and if the ragheads don't like our attacking the mosque then TOUGH SHI'ITE. It's well past time to get this over with.


18 posted on 08/13/2004 9:20:19 PM PDT by WestVirginiaRebel (I'll put George W. Bush's four years in office over Kerry's four months in Vietnam any time!)
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To: Ernest_at_the_Beach

We've heard this before.


19 posted on 08/13/2004 9:27:39 PM PDT by Republican Wildcat
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To: Ernest_at_the_Beach

I'm curious if anyone here honestly thinks that this "cleric" will actually disarm all his troops as a result of any negotiations?


20 posted on 08/13/2004 9:42:06 PM PDT by KellyAdmirer
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To: KellyAdmirer; Republican Wildcat; WestVirginiaRebel; vbmoneyspender; fourdeuce82d; wyattearp; ...
Latest report has him issuing demands!

Al-Sadr issues truce "DEMAND"

21 posted on 08/13/2004 10:08:19 PM PDT by Ernest_at_the_Beach (A Proud member of Free Republic ~~The New Face of the Fourth Estate since 1996.)
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To: Ernest_at_the_Beach

They appear to have a security problem in the south. Orders that are PC or something like that.


22 posted on 08/13/2004 10:23:11 PM PDT by Domangart
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