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Iraqi Governing Council Members Denounce U.S. Actions

9 April 2004 -- Members of Iraq's U.S.-backed Governing Council today criticized the U.S.-led military operations in the Sunni-dominated city of Al-Fallujah, begun after the slayings of four U.S. civilians there last week.

Governing Council member Adnan Pachachi called the military operations "collective punishment" of the city's residents, and said the U.S.-installed council considers the action "illegal and unacceptable." Pachachi is a former Iraqi foreign minister and head of the Iraqi Independent Democrats Movement who returned to Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime.

"We denounced the military operations carried out by the American forces [in Al-Fallujah] because in effect it is [inflicting] collective punishment on the residents of Al-Fallujah," Pachachi said. "We consider the action carried out by U.S. forces [in Al-Fallujah] illegal and totally unacceptable."

Another council member, Ghazi Ajil al-Yawir, told the AFP news agency that he will resign from the council if the crisis in Al-Fallujah is not resolved peacefully.

Representatives of the Governing Council were due to visit Al-Fallujah, but reports suggested that visit had been called off amid reports of continued fighting.

The statements come on the anniversary of the U.S.-led coalition's occupation of the capital Baghdad, amid concerns that renewed violence could further radicalize the Iraqi population and feed anti-U.S. sentiment.

A hospital director in Al-Fallujah was quoted as saying that more than 450 Iraqis have been killed and 1,000 wounded in the past week of fighting.

"We consider the action carried out by U.S. forces [in Al-Fallujah] illegal and totally unacceptable." -- Iraqi Governing Council member Adnan Pachachi
Earlier today, U.S. Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt said a militia loyal to Shi'a Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr still has partial control of the cities of Al-Najaf, Karbala, and Al-Kut.

Al-Sadr said through a supporter at Al-Kufa Mosque today that the United States must withdraw or face a revolution. He claimed the United States "will be fighting an entire nation -- from south to north, from east to west."

U.S.-led coalition leaders called for a temporary cease-fire in the city of Al-Fallujah to allow humanitarian aid to reach residents. But U.S. Central Command chief General John Abizaid said some fighting might still be taking place there.

"It's not a cessation of military action," Abizaid said. "It is a cessation of offensive action, which is very different. I mean, we certainly will take whatever military action we need to defend ourselves and to prevent the enemy from taking any advantage there."

Meanwhile, a British civilian and six U.S. soldiers were killed in separate incidents today, the British Foreign Office and the Pentagon announced.

In Tokyo, thousands of demonstrators gathered to call on the government to withdraw its troops from Iraq following the kidnapping of three Japanese civilians there and a threat to execute them if Japanese troops are not pulled out of Iraq. But Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said he will not comply with the kidnappers' demands for a Japanese withdrawal.

Insurgents today claimed they have abducted six other foreign nationals -- four Italians and two Americans -- in or near Baghdad, although those claims were not immediately confirmed.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw today called the situation in Iraq the "most serious" that the U.S.-led coalition has faced since its forces captured Baghdad.

The Russian Foreign Ministry meanwhile urged Washington to end military operations in Iraq, saying forces in the U.S.-led coalition must refrain from using "indiscriminate force" and warning of "a looming humanitarian catastrophe."