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Last Updated: Saturday, 9 October, 2004, 21:40 GMT 22:40 UK
Shia rebels agree Baghdad truce
Members of Moqtada Sadr's militia in Sadr City, Baghdad
Fighters will get cash for their weapons, negotiators say
Fighters loyal to radical Iraqi Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr have agreed a deal to end clashes in Baghdad's restive Sadr City district, a negotiator says.

Karim Bakhati, acting on behalf of militants in Sadr City, said US forces had promised to halt bombing raids.

The cleric's militia known as the Mehdi Army, will begin handing over weapons from Monday, he said. The collection was to last four or five days.

The Iraqi government has confirmed the deal but the US has not commented.

End to operations

Sadr City, a teeming slum area of Baghdad home to two million people, has been the scene of heavy fighting and near nightly raids in recent weeks as joint US-Iraqi forces tried to crush Mr Sadr's militia.

The BBC's Karen Allen in Baghdad says the deal will be seen as a highly significant development at a time when US and Iraqi forces have been trying to wrest control of other key areas from militants.

"We have agreed that starting from Monday, the Sadr movement will hand over its weapons to the Iraqi police," Mr Bakhati said.

All armed operations would end immediately, he said. "Whoever breaches this will be considered an outlaw and out of religion."

US forces had agreed to stop bombarding the district with immediate effect, he said.

Minister of State Qassim Dawoud told Arabic television station al-Arabiya that once the handover of weapons was completed, a search would be conducted in Sadr City to verify this.

After that, the Iraqi government would start compensating individuals for damages sustained during the military operations.

Falluja

Over the past few weeks, aides close to Mr Sadr had indicated that he was considering disbanding his militia and moving into politics.

In August, the cleric agreed a ceasefire in the central towns of Najaf and Kufa.

Negotiations similar to those in Sadr City are under way in Falluja, which has been a no-go area for US forces since a siege was lifted last April.

A member of the city's mujahideen council told Iraqi and US negotiators on Saturday that the people of Falluja wanted to take part in elections next January, Reuters news agency reported.

"A delegation from Falluja is now discussing the entry of Iraqi National Guards to the city with the defence ministry," Khaled al-Jumaili, chief Falluja negotiator, told Reuters.

Correspondents say Iraq's Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi, wants to regain control of all rebel-held areas ahead of January's planned elections.

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the US might send more troops to Iraq to protect the elections, if top commanders requested them.

"The thing that we've got going in Iraq that's very good is the fact that we've got a steady, growing number of security forces because the Iraqi security forces have been growing at a good clip," Mr Rumsfeld told reporters on his way to the Gulf where he is hosting 18 counterparts from allied nations.




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Details of the reported truce in Baghdad




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