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Wednesday, September 01, 2004

BThe New York Times > International > Middle East > Insurgents: Talks to Disarm Shiites Collapse

The New York Times > International > Middle East > Insurgents: Talks to Disarm Shiites Collapse: "INSURGENTS
Talks to Disarm Shiites Collapse
By DEXTER FILKINS and ERIK ECKHOLM

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Aug. 31 - Talks to disarm hundreds of insurgents in the roiling Sadr City ghetto in Baghdad collapsed Tuesday, after a tentative peace pact was abruptly canceled by Prime Minister Ayad Allawi.
Leaders of the Mahdi Army, the rebel force led by the Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr, and two well-placed Iraqi sources said an agreement had been reached late Monday that called for the disarming of the rebel force and a halt in American military operations in Sadr City.
Mahdi Army commanders and other Iraqi sources said Tuesday that Dr. Allawi backed out of the agreement on Tuesday morning.
The failure of negotiations raised the prospect of more violence from Mr. Sadr's Shiite insurgency, meaning the Iraqi government may not be able to direct its full political and military resources to quelling the continuing Sunni insurgency in other parts of the country.
Also on Tuesday, a militant Islamic group announced a mass killing in Iraq, showing pictures of 12 dead Nepalese laborers for a Jordanian company. [Page A9.]
The agreement on Monday on Sadr City, reached after several days of negotiations, had come on the heels of the withdrawal of Mr. Sadr's forces from Najaf last week after the intervention of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the country's most powerful religious leader.
'Last night there was a deal,' said Yusef al-Nasiri, the leader of the Mahdi Army in Sadr City. 'This morning there was supposed to be a press conference. But then Allawi surprised us, and he has taken us back to zero"

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