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13 August 2004 -- The Iraqi government is denying reports that radical Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr was injured today during fighting with U.S. forces in the holy city of Al-Najaf.

Iraq's interior minister and a Defense Ministry spokesman said al-Sadr was not wounded in clashes in the the holy Shi'a city.

A spokesman for the cleric, Ahmad al-Shaybani, had said earlier that al-Sadr had suffered non-life-threatening injuries and that he was being treated in Al-Najaf's Imam Ali Shrine.

But Iraqi Interior Minister Falah Hassan al-Naqib denied those reports. He also told Reuters that al-Sadr is negotiating with the government and will not be harmed if he peacefully leaves the shrine.

U.S.-led forces yesterday started an assault on Al-Najaf in a bid to defeat fighters loyal to al-Sadr and end a battle that has raged on for eight days.

(AFP/Reuters)

For the latest news on Iraq, see RFE/RL's webpage on "The New Iraq".
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