Archive for Monday, August 30, 2004

U.S. military, Shiite leaders seek end to Sadr City fighting

August 30, 2004


— U.S. military officials and representatives of rebel Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr had talks Sunday aimed at reducing violence in the restive Baghdad slum of Sadr City, a day after clashes there killed 10 people, officials said.

British forces in the southern city of Basra, also the site of recent fighting, held similar talks with al-Sadr officials there.

Both areas had erupted in violence after U.S. forces and al-Sadr's militants began fighting in the holy city of Najaf three weeks ago, and the talks Sunday appeared to be an effort by both sides to expand on the peace deal that ended the Najaf crisis Friday.

An agreement, at least in Sadr City, remained elusive, however, with al-Sadr's aides demanding a U.S. pullout from the neighborhood, a condition U.S. officials rejected.

Meanwhile, guerrillas launched an attack on the country's oil infrastructure in the south, blowing up several oil export pipelines and cutting already curtailed exports to about 500,000 barrels a day, an oil official said.

In the north, insurgents ambushed U.S. troops with rocket-propelled grenades near Mosul, sparking gunbattles that killed two attackers and wounded 34 civilians, the U.S. military said.

U.S. forces and al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia have been fighting for weeks in Sadr city, the east Baghdad slum named for the cleric's father.

In response, al-Sadr representatives, tribal leaders, Shiite politicians, government officials and U.S. military officers met to discuss the violence.

The head of the tribal negotiating team, Naim al-Bakhati, told reporters that all sides -- including al-Sadr representatives -- had agreed that damaged areas there be rebuilt, U.S. troops withdraw from the area except for their normal patrols and that Iraqi police be allowed to enter the slum.

But Lt. Col. Jim Hutton, a spokesman for the U.S. Army's 1st Cavalry Division, said "there has been no agreement of any kind," adding that the talks were not negotiations.

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