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Baghdad, 10 April 2004 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. forces have offered a cease-fire to insurgents in the central, Sunni-majority city of Al-Fallujah.
But spokesman General Mark Kimmitt said American troops reserve the right to self-defense.
"This action is being taken with the expectation that enemy elements in Al-Fallujah will also honor the cease-fire. Irrespective of the cease-fire, coalition forces will always retain the inherent right of self-defense," Kimmitt said.
A delegation of Iraqi leaders entered Al-Fallujah today in hopes of negotiating an end to combat. The U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council overnight denounced U.S. military operations to root out insurgents in Al-Fallujah as "collective punishment" of the city and called for an immediate cease-fire across the country.
The U.S. operation in Al-Fallujah follows the killing and mob mutilation of four Western security contractors there last week. More than 400 Iraqis are reported to have been killed in fighting, along with a scores of U.S. soldiers.
Elsewhere, supporters of radical Shi'a leader Muqtada al-Sadr say they are suspending attacks against coalition forces in the shrine city of Karbala until after the end of a religious festival this weekend.
Fighting is reported today in a Sunni area of northwestern Baghdad between militants and U.S. troops. In fighting overnight in the northern town of Baquba some 40 Iraqis were reported killed.