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Iraqi Governor Offers Deal To End Al-Najaf Standoff

11 May 2004 -- Al-Najaf's newly appointed regional governor said murder charges against Muqtada al-Sadr may be delayed until after the 30 June handover of sovereignty to an Iraqi interim government if the radical Shi'ite cleric withdraws his armed supporters from Al-Najaf.

Governor Adnan al-Zurufi today proposed the current U.S.-led administration agree to delay legal proceedings against al-Sadr if the cleric removes his Imam Al-Mahdi Army and allows Iraqi police to take over security of the province.

He said he is willing to meet with al-Sadr, who the U.S. military wants to arrest in connection with the murder of a rival cleric last year. "If it is going to benefit Al-Najaf and its people if I meet Muqtada al-Sadr, then I will do so and I will tell him that we want a peaceful resolution to this crisis and we want all armed militias to be dissolved," al-Zurufi said.

Hundreds of people marched through the city of Al-Najaf today urging al-Sadr and his militia to leave the area.

Al-Zurufi said a 4,000-man Iraqi Civil Defense Corps unit will be formed to provide security in the province and that local tribal members will be able to nominate members for the force.