Iraq's interim Defense Minister Hazim al-Shaalan says Shi'ite militiamen fighting in Najaf must surrender within hours or face a major assault.
During a visit to the holy city today (Wednesday), Hazim al-Shaalan warned fighters loyal to radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadrthat the coming hours "would be decisive." He said if they do not surrender, Iraq's National Guard will "teach them a lesson they will never forget."
Tuesday, several Iraqi officials traveled to Najaf to propose a peace deal to Moqtada al-Sadr, but the cleric refused to meet with them.
The defense minister said only Iraqi troops would enter the Imam Ali Shrine, where militiamen have taken up positions. He said American forces would only provide air support and protect some roads leading to the Shi'ite holy site.
Information for this report is provided by AFP and Reuters.