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Developments in Iraq

August 26, 2004

Developments in Iraq on Thursday:

_Radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr agreed to end three weeks of fighting between his militia and U.S.-Iraqi forces in Najaf. The deal came after al-Sadr and the Iraqi government accepted a peace proposal by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s most influential Shiite cleric. There was no word on whether the U.S. military would a provision of the five-point plan for its forces to leave Najaf.

_An Arab television station said it received a video showing the killing of kidnapped Italian journalist Enzo Baldoni, whom militants had threatened to execute him if Italy did not withdraw from Iraq. Italy condemned the killing but said it would not pull out its troops.

_A mortar barrage slammed into a Kufa mosque filled with Shiites preparing to join a peace march for Najaf, killing 27 people. It was the fourth violent incident in the ancient city of Kufa in two days, after three attacks on other Shiite rallies. A total of at least 40 people have been killed.

_ A large explosion rocked Baghdad early Friday. The source and target of the blast were not immediately clear, and the U.S. military had no immediate comment.

_The release of reports on the Abu Ghraib prison scandal appear to have quelled suspicions that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld ordered the use of abusive tactics against Iraqi detainees. Rumsfeld has been faulted for lapses in oversight of the detention system in Iraq, but unless new efforts are launched to undermine Rumsfeld it seems the scandal will not force him from office, as appeared possible last spring.

_Saboteurs attacked about 20 oil pipelines in southern Iraq late Wednesday, reducing exports from the key oil producing region at least by half, an official with the state-run South Oil Co. said.

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