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Iraqi Official Urges Foreign Forces To Leave Al-Najaf

Al-Sadr fighters, Al-Najaf 11 August 2004 -- Iraq's interim deputy president is urging U.S.-led forces to leave the Shi'ite holy city of Al-Najaf, where fighting rages on today for a seventh day.

Ibrahim al-Ja'fari, speaking on the Arab-langauage satellite television channel Al-Jazeera, called for all foreign forces to quit Al-Najaf and said only Iraqi forces should remain there to end the violence.

But he added that the government will have to resort to "extraordinary" measures if radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr does not accept demands by Prime Minister Iyad Allawi that al-Sadr's militiamen leave Al-Najaf as soon as possible to end the bloodshed.

Fighters loyal to al-Sadr apparently rejected a call on 10 August by the U.S. military to either leave Al-Najaf or face death.

U.S. forces say they have killed 360 al-Sadr loyalists so far in Al-Najaf. Spokesmen for al-Sadr say far fewer have died.

U.S. military sources said last night that Al-Najaf's governor had given permission for U.S. troops to enter the shrine to stop fighters who they say are using it as an operational base. But it remains unclear if U.S. forces will enter the area since it would likely anger Iraq's majority Shi'ites.


For more on the situation in Iraq go to RFE/RL's special page, "The New Iraq."

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