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U.S. Forces Renew Assault On Al-Fallujah --> (archive photo) 28 April 2004 -- U.S. Marines have launched more air and ground attacks against suspected Sunni insurgent positions in the besieged Iraqi city of Al-Fallujah.

Cobra attack helicopters and warplanes strafed the Jolan neighborhood with missile and machine-gun fire after heavy gun battles that lasted for more than one hour today.

But U.S. Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, speaking to reporters in Baghdad, insisted that coalition troops are still committed to resolving the situation through what he called "peaceful means."

In Baghdad, U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council member Muhsen Abd al-Hamid said at a news conference that a large-scale incursion into Al-Fallujah should be avoided. "None of us wants any harm to be inflicted, let alone any military incursion into an Iraqi city that will cause the deaths of thousands of men, women, and children," he said.

At the United Nations, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has appealed for U.S. restraint in the siege of Al-Fallujah, warning that greater use of force could swell the number of insurgents. Annan admitted the difficulty facing U.S. forces but said it is vital for them to prevent the violence from escalating.

"The more the occupation is seen as taking steps that seem to harm the civilians and the population, the greater the ranks of resistance grows. And I think everybody has said the struggle should really have been to win the hearts and minds of the people," Annan said.

Annan also said any assault on the Shi'a holy city of Al-Najaf, where other Iraqi insurgents are hiding, would have "unimagineable consequences."

He said he hopes the formal end of the U.S.-led military occupation will lessen some of the resistance in Iraq. Annan's envoy to Iraq, Lakhdar Brahimi, is recommending the formation of a caretaker Iraqi government by the end of next month to give time to negotiate issues of sovereignty with U.S. officials.

In other developments, U.S. Brigadier General Kimmitt said three coalition soldiers died today in Iraq -- one killed in action near Swairah south of Baghdad, and two of wounds sustained in attacks. He did not specify the nationality of the dead.