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43 Insurgents Killed Near Al-Najaf

U.S. troops were involved in heavy fighting yesterday in Al-Fallujah and near Al-Najaf (archive photo) 27 April 2004 -- The U.S. military says 43 guerrillas were killed near the Iraqi Shi'ite holy city of Al-Najaf yesterday.

A military spokeswoman declined to give any more details about the fighting with forces believed to be loyal to anti-coalition Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who is holed up in Al-Najaf with his militia.

Meanwhile, hundreds of Iraqi police fanned out on the streets in the restive Sunni town of Al-Fallujah today, but the police commander said it is not clear when they will begin joint patrols with besieging U.S. forces.

An agreement between the U.S.-led administration and Al-Fallujah civic leaders set a deadline of 27 April for insurgents to hand over heavy weapons, and said joint patrols between U.S. Marines and police in the city would resume "as early as" today.

The U.S. military said eight suspected insurgents and one U.S. soldier were killed yesterday in clashes around a mosque in Al-Fallujah.

In Washington yesterday, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said that the still-undefined government due to take power in Iraq on 1 July will have to give up some of its sovereignty to allow U.S. forces to operate freely in the country.

"It's sovereignty, but part of that sovereignty they are going to allow us to exercise on their behalf and with their permission. It is not as if we are seizing anything away from them," Reuters quoted Powell as saying. "It is with the understanding that they need our help and for us to provide that help we have to be able to operate freely, which in some ways infringes on what some would call full sovereignty."

United Nations envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who has been working on plans to select an interim Iraqi government and is due to brief the U.N. Security Council later today, has called for disbanding the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council and replacing it with a government led by a prime minister, president, and two vice presidents until elections can be held by January 2005.


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