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UN Head Cautions U.S., Allies Over Iraq Offensive

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan (file photo) 5 November 2004 -- UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has warned the United States, Britain, and Iraq that an assault on the rebel-held city of Al-Fallujah in central Iraq could further aggravate the situation in that country, angering Iraqis and undermining plans to hold elections in January.

Annan's warning came in letters to U.S. President George W. Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.

Allawi was in Brussels today meeting with leaders from the European Union. At a news conference, Allawi warned insurgents in Al-Fallujah that time for a peaceful solution to the standoff in the city was running out.

Allawi said Al-Fallujah civilians have appealed to the Iraqi government to bring the city under control.

"We have been asked by the people of Fallujah to help them, to liberate them from the terrorists and the insurgents who have taken Fallujah as a hostage, and the Fallujians as hostages, and we intend to liberate the people and to bring the rule of law," Allawi said.

Allawi's warnings came the same day that U.S. forces used loudspeakers and distributed leaflets by air, warning that they will detain any man under 45 trying to enter or leave the city.

The United States resumed air strikes on Al-Fallujah overnight and U.S. and Iraqi forces have surrounded the city and sealed off roads leading to Al-Fallujah in preparation for what many expect will be a massive offensive.