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Last Updated: Sunday, 10 April, 2005, 15:02 GMT 16:02 UK
Zarqawi 'rejects amnesty offer'
Iraqi government handout photograph of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi
Zarqawi is Iraq's most wanted insurgent
A militant group led by Jordanian rebel Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has rejected a call from the new Iraqi president for militants to lay down their arms.

President Jalal Talabani was an agent of the US, it said, and he would never be forgiven for his "infidelity" and "spilling of the blood of Muslims".

The statement, which could not be verified, was posted on a website used by Islamist militants.

Mr Talabani had said that some insurgents could be offered an amnesty.

However, he did not specifically mention Zarqawi's group.

Zarqawi, Iraq's most wanted rebel, has claimed responsibility for many bombings and beheadings in Iraq.

'Political game'

Speaking on Thursday after being sworn in as the Iraqi leader, Mr Talabani said: "We must find a political and peaceful solution with Iraqis who have been led astray by terrorism."

Insurgents "should be invited to participate in the democratic process", he said, according to the AFP news agency.

If their crimes were not too serious, they could be offered an amnesty, he added.

The internet statement from Zarqawi's group, issued in the name of the al-Qaeda Organisation for Holy War in Iraq, said the president had called on militants to "enter into atheism, polytheism and the political game".

"We only reserve the sword for you, agents of Jews and Crusaders. We will never give up jihad until Islamic law is established," it said

He has declared his group's allegiance to the al-Qaeda terror network of Osama bin Laden, and the US has put a $25m (13m) bounty on Zarqawi's head.


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