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Iraqi Militias Agree To Disband

Al-Sadr's militia has vowed to continue fighting (file photo) 7 June 2004 -- Iraq's new interim government said it has reached an agreement on disbanding nine of the country's factional militias, but fighters loyal to radical Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr are not part of the deal.

Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said on 7 June that about 100,000 people, mainly members of militias loyal to mainstream political factions, will give up their arms and enter civilian life or join security forces by 2005.

A spokesman for al-Sadr, Sheikh Abbas al-Rubaie, said the cleric's private Imam Al-Mahdi Army will remain armed and continue to fight occupation forces.

"The Mahdi Army is not a militia," al-Rubaie said. "The Mahdi Army is an army to fight the occupation and I do not think that there is a patriotic person in the interim government who calls for a halt to the resistance."

In another development, a senior commander of the armed wing of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), Shahir Faisal Shahir, was killed in a drive-by shooting in Baghdad on 7 June.