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Iraqi President Prepared To Talk To Insurgents

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani (file photo) (AFP) 20 November 2005 -- Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has suggested during a three-day conference on Iraqi reconciliation that he is willing to talk to violent opponents of his government if they contact him.

Talabani signaled during the Cairo meeting, which brings together many of the disparate groups striving for political power in Iraq, that if the Iraqi resistance desires to contact him, that he would welcome the move but that he need not respect insurgents' arguments.

"If those who call themselves the Iraqi resistance desired to contact me, I would welcome them. I would not refuse to meet any Iraqi who wants to meet me," Reuters quoted Talabani as telling a news conference today on the sidelines of the meeting. "But of course that does not mean I will accept what he says."

The meeting was organized by the Cairo-based Arab League and is aimed at preparing for a larger reconciliation conference in 2006.

Iraqi government leaders have previously said that they would talk to those who were not responsible for killing Iraqis and who were committed to laying down their arms.

Surge Of Violence Continues

Meanwhile, a spate of bombings that has killed more than 120 people in Iraq in the past three days, many of them civilians, continued today.

The U.S. military reported that 15 civilians, eight insurgents, and one U.S. Marine were killed today in Al-Hadithah, northwest of Baghdad, after an ambush on a joint U.S.-Iraqi patrol.

Police earlier said that at least five civilians were injured by an attack today in Baghdad.

In a separate incident, four family members, including three children, were killed today when their home near a U.S. military barracks was hit by mortar shells in the town of Mashroua, 65 kilometers south of the capital Baghdad.

Reports said explosions of two roadside bombs targeting a joint U.S.-Iraqi Army patrol today in Abu Ghurayb, 25 kilometers west of Baghdad, killed three Iraqi soldiers.

The British Defense Ministry reported that one British soldier was killed by a roadside bomb today in Al-Basrah.

In Tikrit, 180 kilometers north of Baghdad, gunmen today kidnapped two young women who worked at an Iraqi army base.

Protest In Baghdad

Hundreds of Iraqis marched in western Baghdad today demanding an end to the torture of detainees and calling for the international community to put pressure on Iraqi and U.S. authorities to ensure that such abuse does not occur.

Iraqi authorities are investigating the discovery by U.S. forces of some 170 detainees -- some of whom appeared to have been tortured in the custody of Iraqi security forces -- on 14 November.

U.S. officials have also had to defend themselves against allegations of the use of torture against detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan, and at U.S. facilities at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and elsewhere.

(compiled from Reuters and other wire reports)

RFE/RL Iraq Report

RFE/RL Iraq Report

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