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Fighting Subsides In Iraq --> (archive photo) 28 April 2004 -- Al-Fallujah and Al-Najaf are reportedly quiet today, one day after clashes between insurgents and U.S. troops stationed outside of both besieged Iraqi cities.

The number of casualties remains unclear in the Sunni Muslim stronghold of Al-Fallujah after a series of U.S. air strikes on suspected targets. U.S. Marine Major T. V. Johnson said there were "massive secondary explosions" after an AC-130 gunship bombed one building overnight, suggesting the target had contained large amounts of ammunition.

At the United Nations, U.N. envoy to Iraq Lakhdar Brahimi said yesterday that it is essential that the standoff in Al-Fallujah be resolved peacefully.

"Unless this standoff [in Al-Fallujah] -- and now this fighting -- is brought to a resolution through peaceful means, there is great risk of a very bloody confrontation," Brahimi said.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Richard Myers discussed the situation in Iraq during a news briefing at the Pentagon yesterday.

Rumsfeld said Sunni leaders in Al-Fallujah are continuing to work on a settlement. "The vast majority of Iraqis know that the terrorists and the regime remnants in Fallujah and in other parts of the country are desperately trying to prevent progress and to stop the Iraqi people from taking hold of their country," Rumsfeld said. "But it will be the Iraqi people who will be on the winning side."

As regards fighting near Al-Najaf yesterday, the U.S. military said U.S. forces killed at least 64 Iraqi insurgents yesterday after coming under fire. The U.S. military is demanding that forces loyal to radical Shi'ite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr withdraw from all mosques and schools in the Shi'ite holy city.

"The situation in Fallujah and Najaf and parts of Baghdad continues to be very challenging, and our forces are trying to balance efforts to solve these situations peacefully by working with some of the residents, while at the same time not tolerating violence against the coalition or against innocent Iraqis," Myers said.