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Iranian Diplomat Shot Dead In Baghdad --> Iran has strong ties to Iraq's Shi'a community Baghdad, 15 April 2004 (RFE/RL) -- An Iranian diplomat was shot dead by unknown assailants near the Iranian mission in Baghdad today.

Iranian state television says the diplomat was Khalil Naimi, first secretary of the mission.

Iranians have emerged as potential mediators in resolving a bloody conflict between U.S.-led occupation forces and fighters loyal to radical Shi'a militia leader Muqtada al-Sadr.

U.S. troops and insurgents remain in a standoff outside the cities of Al-Najaf and Al-Fallujah as negotiations continue in an attempt to prevent a resurgence in fighting between coalition forces and both Sunni and Shi'a Muslims.

The shooting came as planes from Russia's Emergency Situations Ministry are arriving in Baghdad to start evacuating more than 800 citizens from Russia and other Commonwealth of Independent States member countries after a series of hostage-taking incidents raised security concerns.

Italy and Japan have both reiterated their troop commitments in Iraq despite the killing of one Italian hostage and the possible kidnapping of two more Japanese citizens. Three other Japanese nationals who were among some 40 foreign workers believed to have been abducted in Iraq recently were released today, according to Japanese and Arabic television reports.