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U.S. and Fallujah Representatives Open Direct Talks

U.S. and Fallujah Representatives Open Direct Talks

Posted - Apr. 16, 2004 at 7:07 a.m.



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FALLUJAH, Iraq (AP) -- U.S. military and civilian officials met Friday with leaders from Fallujah, the first known direct negotiations between Americans and city representatives since the siege of the city began April 5.

Until now, U.S.-allied Iraqi leaders have been holding talks with city representatives trying to find an end to the violence.

"We are coming in here with an open mind. It is very important what we are doing. We are trying to give diplomatic negotiations a chance here," said Marine Maj. T.V. Johnson.

Eleven members of the Fallujah delegation attended the talks, most wearing business suits, but one member attended wearing traditional robes.

One U.S. coalition official and one military official participated.

The talks were held at a Marine base near Fallujah.

U.S. officials would not comment on the substance of the negotiations or give details on who the Fallujah representatives were.

The Marines have halted offensive operations in the city for a week, and Sunni insurgents called a cease-fire on Sunday to allow the talks between Iraqis to take place. But the truce has been severely strained by nightly fighting between the two sides around the Marines' positions.

In the first sign of possible progress in the inter-Iraqi talks, mosques in Fallujah called on police and Iraqi Civil Defense Corps members to report to their positions on Friday.

But fighting continued. A U.S. F-16 warplane dropped a 2,000-pound bomb in northern Fallujah during the day Friday, destroying a building where gunmen had been seen, Marines said. The giant blast sent up a huge spray of dirt and smoke that clouded an entire neighborhood.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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