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Cleric's Effort To Broker Peace In Najaf Welcomed


Iraq: Annan Welcomes Cleric's Effort To Broker Peace In Najaf

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today welcomed efforts by Iraq's top Shiite Muslim cleric to end the fighting in the holy city of Najaf, voiced great concern over the high death toll in nearby Kufa and other cities, and reiterated the world body's readiness to help the country's political transition.

Mr. Annan said he was encouraged by reports that an agreement to halt the armed hostilities in Najaf has been reached following intervention by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani to end weeks of fighting between United States and interim Government forces on the one hand and Shiite Muslim cleric Said Moqtada Al-Sadr's militia on the other.

"The Secretary-General calls upon all parties to respect the sanctity of the Imam Ali Mosque, which is one of the holiest shrines for Muslims all over the world," a statement issued by a spokesman in New York said.

It added that Mr. Annan was "greatly dismayed" by violent incidents today in Kufa and other locations in Iraq, particularly by the high toll of dead and wounded, including civilian casualties.

"The Secretary-General expresses concern over the humanitarian situation created as a result of the recent hostilities and reminds all parties of their responsibilities under international humanitarian law, including their obligation to ensure free and unhindered access of medical personnel and humanitarian aid to all areas in need," the statement said.

"The Secretary-General reiterates that the United Nations stands ready to assist Iraqis in the transitional political process and calls upon them to resolve their differences through peaceful means," it concluded.

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