Iraqi premier welcomes truce offer, offensive to go on

March 31st, 2008 - 4:00 am ICT by admin  

Baghdad, March 31 (DPA) Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki praised a move by radical Shia cleric, Moqtada al-Sadr, to withdraw his fighters from the streets of Basra and other provinces but the government said an offensive to restore security in some areas would continue. Al-Maliki said in a statement the move was a “step in the right direction” that would hopefully help with stabilizing security and creating a suitable climate for reconstruction.

Military operations launched by Iraqi troops in Basra are not targeting any political or religious groups, including the al-Sadr Bloc, the premier said.

Earlier, Iraqi cabinet spokesman, Ali al-Dabagh, said the move was in the public interest but added that the government was going ahead with reinforcing security and stability.

The cleric urged his followers from the Mahdi Army militia to cooperate with government bodies to achieve security and fight criminals.

Al-Sadr had previously defied a government deadline for Shia fighters to surrender weapons in return for cash by April 8.

The government was urged to stop its raids against members of the Mahdi Army and its political wing, the al-Sadr Bloc, to release detainees and apply the general amnesty law.

A curfew has been partially lifted in Baghdad, except in Shia-dominated districts of al-Sadr City, Khazimiyah and Shula where fighting is still going on, the Dubai-based al-Arabyia television reported.

In a separate development, the spokesman for Baghdad’s military command said all areas in the Iraqi capital were receiving services, the Voices of Iraq (VOI) news agency reported.

General Kasim Atta denied that troops were preventing medical supplies from being delivered in some Shia-dominated areas in the capital.

Earlier, a member of the al-Sadr Bloc accused the US and Iraqi troops of preventing medical supplies from being delivered to Sadr City and Shula district in eastern Baghdad, VOI reported.

Salih al-Ikily urged the United Nations special envoy in Iraq to intervene to save the lives of civilians in Shiite-dominated areas in Baghdad.

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