Fallujah Leaders, U.S. Urge Militants to Disarm
The joint statement from U.S. officials and Fallujah’s leaders promises an end to the U.S. siege of the city and a resumption of humanitarian aid efforts if residents comply and give up their weapons.
“The parties agreed that coalition forces do not intend to resume offensive operations if all persons inside the city turn in the heavy weapons,” said Dan Senor, spokesman for the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority. “Individual violators will be dealt with on an individual basis.”
If the deal is not honored, however, Marines are prepared to attack the city quickly, according to coalition military spokesman Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt. But American military leaders hoped the diplomatic efforts would avert the need for action.
“It would appear there is an agreed political track,” he told reporters.
The Fallujah representatives are thought to have influence with Sunni rebels in the city who have repeatedly clashed with coalition forces. Nearly 100 U.S. soldiers have died in Iraq in April alone fighting both in Fallujah and against an uprising of Shiites loyal to fiery cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
As violence continued to plague the country over the weekend, Spain’s new prime minister, Jose Luis Rodriquez Zapatero, ordered the withdrawal of 1,300 Spanish troops from Iraq. The Spanish leader, who ran on a platform opposed to the country’s involvement in Iraq, indicated the troops could leave the troubled nation within two weeks.
President Bush spoke to Zapatero on the telephone about his decision to withdraw troops.
“The president urged that the Spanish withdrawal take place in a coordinated manner that does not put at risk other coalition forces in Iraq,” White House press secretary Scott McClellan said.
“The president stressed the importance of carefully considering future actions to avoid giving false comfort to terrorists or enemies of freedom in Iraq,” McClellan said.
April, the deadliest month since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq began, has been marked with insurgent uprisings, kidnappings and ambushes.
Five Marines were killed near the Syrian border Saturday in a firefight with 120 to 150 insurgents, who were using machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.
The all-day battle began when a Marine patrol came under attack Saturday morning near Qusaybah, Maj. Thomas Johnson, a Marine spokesman said.
“Additional Marines, backed by helicopter close-air support, were dispatched to the city and soon came under fire by enemy equipped with rifles and rocket-propelled grenades,” Johnson said.
A soldier from the 1st Calvary Division died when his convoy hit a roadside bomb in eastern Baghdad. In the evening, three soldiers in the 1st Armored Division were shot and killed in an ambush near the southern town of Diwaniyah.
The other Marine killed in action Saturday died in western Anbar province.
Two other soldiers died in accidents over the weekend.
One, a member of the 1st Calvary Division, was killed Saturday morning in the northern part of Baghdad when his M1-A1 Abrams tank rolled over, which is rare for the 63-ton vehicle, The Washington Post reported. Two solders were also injured in the incident.
Another 1st Infantry Division soldier was electrocuted Saturday while working on a generator at a military base near Samarra.