'Iraq govt, Sadr bloc agree truce'

"A deal has been made between the Sadr bloc and the United Iraqi Alliance to have a ceasefire," Ubaidi said.

'Iraq govt, Sadr bloc agree truce'

Iraq's government has agreed a truce with the movement of Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr to end weeks of fighting in eastern Baghdad between Shi'ite militia and security forces, a Sadr spokesman said on Saturday.

If confirmed, the ceasefire could end violence that has killed several hundred people and trapped the 2 million residents of the Sadr City slum in a battle zone.

Government officials were not immediately available to comment.

Sadr spokesman Salah al-Ubaidi told Reuters an agreement had been made between the Sadr movement's bloc in parliament and the ruling Shi'ite alliance, called the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA).

He said he expected the agreement to take effect either on Saturday night or Sunday.

"A deal has been made between the Sadr bloc and the United Iraqi Alliance to have a ceasefire. The main aim of the deal is to solve the crisis in Sadr City," Ubaidi said.

"The government has accepted this deal."

The U.S. military said it was not aware of any agreement.

But even if a deal is struck, it is unclear how much control the anti-American Sadr has over many of the militiamen who claim allegiance to him in Sadr City, stronghold of his Mehdi Army.

Gunmen have been battling U.S. and Iraqi security forces and firing rockets at the Green Zone government and diplomatic compound since late March, when Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki launched a crackdown on militias.

Major-General Qassim Moussawi, spokesman for Iraqi security forces in Baghdad, said he was not aware of any pact.

"As a field commander, we are not aware of this deal. Our forces are still on the ground and will not withdraw from Sadr City or other parts unless weapons are handed over," he told Reuters.

Aid workers have warned of a looming humanitarian crisis with trapped civilians running out of food, water and medicines in Sadr City.

The U.S. military said on Saturday it had killed eight militants in different districts of Baghdad on Friday.

That brought to 33 the total number of militants that U.S. forces say they killed in Baghdad on Thursday and Friday.

Sadr threatened last month to scrap a truce he imposed on his Mehdi Army militia in August. A few weeks later, he urged them to continue to observe the ceasefire, leaving Iraqis guessing over his intentions.

Reuters
Last Mod: 10 Mayıs 2008, 14:42
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