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Iranians End Fact-Finding Visit To Iraq

Al-Sadr: No meeting with Iranian delegation 17 April 2004 -- An Iranian fact-finding delegation ended its visit to Iraq today without making a planned visit to the holy city of Al-Najaf, where a radical Shi'a cleric is currently engaged in a standoff with U.S.-led forces.

The head of the Iranian team, Foreign Ministry official Hossein Sadeqi, said the group met with both Sunni and Shi'a leaders.

He did not explain why the Al-Najaf visit was canceled. But coalition officials had told the delegation their mediation in the standoff with the cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, was unwelcome.

The Iranian team also met with UN special envoy to Iraq Lakhdar Brahimi, as well as representatives of the U.S.-led coalition and key members of the Iraqi Governing Council.

During Iran's Army Day celebrations today, President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami vowed strong public support meant his country's political system would not "melt" like the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein.