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Talks Continue in Al-Fallujah

28 April 2004 -- A U.S. general today described the situation in Al-Fallujah as "fiercely tense," but said negotiations are continuing between U.S. forces and local leaders in the Iraqi Sunni stronghold.

U.S. Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt told the BBC that the U.S.-led coalition is "bending over backwards" in its attempt to get people in Al-Fallujah to lay down their weapons at the threat of an invasion by U.S. troops massed outside the city.

U.S. troops have also surrounded Al-Najaf, where radical Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr is holed up with his militia. There were no signs today that insurgents are heeding a U.S. military demand to withdraw from all mosques and schools in the holy Shi'ite city.

Qays al-Khazali, a spokesman for al-Sadr, today reiterated a warning that U.S. forces will be greeted by suicide bombers if they enter Al-Najaf.

"The number of people who are ready to carry out suicide attacks is increasing day by day, and we are telling them to wait until [U.S. forces] cross the 'red lines' as defined by the religious authority," al-Khazali said.

Meanwhile, Ukraine's Defense Ministry has announced that one Ukrainian soldier was killed and two others injured today in an ambush near the village of Zubadia, some 180 kilometers southeast of Baghdad. It was the second time a Ukrainian soldier has been killed in Iraq this month.