17 August 2004 -- A delegation of Iraqi political and religious leaders due in Al-Najaf today for talks aimed at ending fighting between U.S. forces and Shi'ite militiamen has been delayed due to security concerns.
It is not clear when the group will travel to the holy Shiite city for planned talks with Shiite cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr, who has been leading his followers in daily clashes with U.S. forces for nearly two weeks.
The delay comes as fighting was reported near Al-Najaf's Imam Ali shrine. Al-Najaf police chief Ghalib al-Jaza'iri blamed al-Sadr's militia for the renewed violence.
"The governor [of Al-Najaf] did his best to bring calm back to the city and reach a truce. We all love peace, truces, and negotiations, but those people [al-Sadr's militia] do not want truces, negotiations, and peace. They are treacherous and have no credibility. They are the ones who started the attacks on police," al-Jaza'iri said.
In Baghdad today, an explosion killed at least six people and wounded around 20 others.
(Reuters/AFP/AP/CNN)For the latest news on Iraq, see RFE/RL's webpage on "The New Iraq".