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Iraqi PM: Gunmen in Najaf Must Leave Holy Sites - 2004-08-08


Iraq's Prime Minister Iyad Allawi traveled to violence-torn Najaf Sunday to call on militant gunmen to leave that city's holy sites including the Imam Ali shrine quickly and lay down their weapons, so the rule of law can return.

Heavy security surrounded Mr. Allawi during his trip to Najaf, in central Iraq, where fighting has raged since Thursday. Iraqi government forces and U.S. troops have been battling fighters who say they are loyal to radical Shi'ite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

The prime minister spoke to reporters in Najaf before meeting with the city's governor. Mr. Allawi was accompanied by his defense and interior ministers, along with his national security adviser.

Earlier today, Iraqi officials said 43 Iraqis have been killed during the past 24 hours in Najaf and in Baghdad's Sadr city section, another stronghold of militant Shi'ites.

Information for this report is provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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