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Iraq: Sadr orders fighters off the streets

Baghdad, March 30, IRNA -- Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has ordered militiamen off the streets of Basra, spokesman said in a statement on Sunday.

It follows talks between Sadr and Iraqi authorities aimed at ending days of fighting.

Clashes in Basra and Baghdad have been going on between Shia militia and the Iraq police, backed up by the US and British military.

The battles were prompted by a crackdown on the militias in the southern city.

Sadr offered to stop the fighting in return for an amnesty and an end to the clampdown on his followers.

"Negotiations between the Sadr movement and an Iraqi government delegation started Saturday night and are going in the right direction to solve the crisis," Sadr's spokesman said.

The talks began hours after Sadr ordered his followers to defy a call by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to lay down their arms.

Both the Iraqi capital and Basra remain under curfew.

Maliki had given the Shia fighters in Basra 72 hours to disarm - the deadline expired on Friday.

Sadr, speaking in his first public appearance in a year, said he wanted to "liberate" Iraq.

Fighting in Sadr City in Baghdad has killed at least 90 people since Tuesday and the nationwide death toll has crossed 270, including at least 50 in Basra.

The US and Britain were involved in military strikes in Basra on Saturday.

The US said its special forces were also helping the Iraqi army.

... Payvand News - 03/30/08 ... --

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