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Last Updated: Saturday, 28 August, 2004, 10:31 GMT 11:31 UK
Peace restored to city of Najaf
Bulldozer clears up in Najaf
Much of central Najaf has been shattered by the fighting
People in the Iraqi city of Najaf have been enjoying their first day of peace in more than three weeks after a truce between Shia rebels and US-led forces.

Fighters loyal to dissident preacher Moqtada Sadr earlier withdrew from their base at the shrine of Imam Ali.

Shia spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Sistani has been meeting other clerics to discuss the new situation in Najaf.

Questions remain over weapons still held by the fighters who were meant to disarm under the peace deal.

Municipal workers went out on Saturday for the first time in weeks to begin clearing up debris.

In other developments:

  • Gunmen shoot dead a senior woman academic in the northern city of Mosul. Iman Abdul Moneam Younis was head of translation at Mosul University's College of Art

  • A US air strike on the restive Sunni city of Falluja kills at least three civilians and injures 11, local doctors say
'Still an army'

As Iraqi police took charge on the streets, Mr Sadr's Mehdi Army was allowed to disperse.

NAJAF AGREEMENT
Ayatollah Ali Sistani (L) and Moqtada Sadr
'Armed elements' in Najaf and Kufa give up weapons
Iraqi police take control in the two cities
Foreign forces withdraw
Iraqi government pays compensation to those who suffered in crisis
A census and political process lead up to general elections

American troops are adopting a lower profile, but are still patrolling some areas at the request of the Iraqi interim government.

Correspondents say many of Mr Sadr's fighters left with their weapons, or concealed them in different parts of the city.

"They will hide their weapons but will not hand them over to the police or to the army..." his spokesman Sheikh Ahmed Shaibani told AFP news agency.

"They will be able to go back to their work whilst remaining an army."

Mr Sadr appears to have been granted an amnesty exempting him from arrest and he remains a potent political force, the BBC's Matthew Price reports from Baghdad.

Bitter peace

Three weeks of fierce clashes between the Mehdi Army and US soldiers have devastated several neighbourhoods and reportedly left hundreds dead and injured.

These actions are intended to divert the public's attention from what is going on in the rest of Iraq
Ahmad Hassan al-Banna, Iraq

The deal negotiated with Moqtada Sadr has been welcomed by the US-backed interim government in Baghdad as a "great victory".

But correspondents report a mood of bitterness in the battle-scarred city after the elation that accompanied the end of the stand-off.

"How did all this killing benefit the people of Najaf?" asked father-of-five Abu Noor, speaking to Reuters news agency.

"What is the difference between [Iyad] Allawi's government and Saddam Hussein? They both pound us," the man added.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Matthew Price
"Gone are the gunmen and the snipers"



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