US declares truce deal in Fallujah, expresses '\'disappointment'\' at Spanish pullout decision

Published April 19th, 2004 - 02:00 GMT

The US army Monday reduced the size of the force it has built up outside the Iraqi city of Najaf. The Americans were said to be ready to wait for further negotiations before acting against Shiite leader, Moqtada al Sadr. 

 

Colonel Dana Pittard, commander of the 2,500-strong 3rd Brigade Task Force outside Najaf, said the force would be withdrawn over coming days. It would be replaced by some 2,000 troops from the 1st Armoured Division. 

 

Iraqi Shiite clerics have warned that if US forces move into Najaf to kill or arrest Sadr it could lead to a fresh eruption of unrest. "Because of where negotiations are right now, we can wait," Col. Pittard said, according to Reuters. "We still want Iraqis to solve the problem."  

 

Meanwhile, the US-led occupation announced a deal aimed at defusing its armed confrontation with Iraqi fighters in the city of Fallujah, including joint patrols with allied Iraqi security forces and an amnesty for those who turn in heavy weapons.  

 

Spokesman Dan Senor said the agreement with local community leaders also provided for access to hospitals, the removal and burial of the dead and a reduction in curfew hours.  

 

"The parties agreed that coalition forces do not intend to resume offensive operations if all people in the city turn in their heavy weapons," Senor told reporters.  

 

"The parties reaffirmed the absolute need to restore law and order in the city as quickly as possible, to rebuild the judicial system and to initiate ... investigations into criminal acts."  

 

On the political front, Washington has expressed "disappointment" at Spain's decision to puulout its 1,400 soldiers from Iraq but wants close ties with the new government, Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said Monday. 

 

According to Moratinos, he held a phone converation with the U.S. secretary of state to inform him of Spain's decision only hours before the official announcement by Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero on Sunday, just a day after taking office. 

 

"I cannot hide that there was a certain degree of disappointment from Secretary of State Colin Powell," Moratinos told Cadena Ser radio on Monday. (Albawaba.com)

© 2004 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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