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Iraq cleric urges truce, Bush vows to remain firm

25th November 2003

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The top Iraqi Sunni Muslim cleric has called for a week-long post-Ramadan truce as US President George W Bush vowed to remain firm in prosecuting the war on terror.

The head of the Sunni religious administration, Adnan al-Dulaimi, called yesterday on both the US-led coalition and the insurgents who have dogged their seven-month-old occupation to respect the week-long cease-fire for the Eid al-Fitr holiday.

"I call on the resistance to suspend operations this week so that Iraqis can live in peace, without the blast of explosives, bombs and shooting," Dulaimi said in an Eid sermon at Baghdad's Oum al-Qora mosque.

"I ask also the occupation forces not to deal with Iraqis as terrorists. We are peaceful, apostles of peace and not evil".

But US troops and Iraqi security personnel were out in force overnight, manning roadblocks across the city. A series of insurgent attacks were reported during the day in the Sunni belt north and west from the capital that has been the epicentre of the violence.

Police also shut down the Baghdad bureau of Dubai-based satellite television Al-Arabiya after it was banned by the Governing Council for a November 16 broadcast of an audiotape of Saddam Hussein.

The tape called for attacks on members of the US-installed interim leadership in a Ramadan message.

The station however rejected the charge that its broadcast incited murder.

"Al-Arabiya regrets this surprising measure and rejects the violence incitement charge by the interim Governing Council and confirms that its policy adhered and still adheres to covering the news in an objective and precise manner," said the Saudi-owned satellite news channel in a statement.

Al-Arabiya's bureau chief in Baghdad said earlier that the channel will stop filing material from the country until the affair is settled legally.

Meanwhile, US President George W Bush yesterday signed a $401-billion defense bill that boosts soldiers' pay and promised, "the US will not be intimidated by a bunch of thugs".

Bush said the new money would help build a "fast and smart and agile" military able to face enemies that "hide in the shadows" and "are often hard to strike".

"These killers are now facing the US and a great coalition of responsible nations and this threat to civilisation will be defeated," he vowed.

US commanders have been on high alert throughout the Muslim fasting month, as they have connected the ebb and flow of daily violence to what US Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt called the "various feast days of Ramadan".

A US soldier was wounded in a bomb attack on his convoy in the main northern city of Mosul, a US military spokesperson said, and a member of the Iraqi civil defense force was wounded when two unknown assailants called him a "traitor" before stabbing him in the hotspot town of Baquba.

US troops also shot dead a person in a vehicle that was trying to ram a checkpoint, and killed another person who attacked them north of Baghdad, another US spokesperson said.

In New York, the Iraq Governing Council has asked the UN Security Council for a new resolution formally abolishing the US-led occupation when a provisional government is elected in June.

Current IGC chairperson Jalal Talabani outlined the request in a letter to the Security Council released yesterday detailing the agreement with the occupation Coalition Provisional Authority for the handover of power to Iraqis.

Talabani said a new resolution would be needed to cover the situation at the end of June 2004, when a provisional government - Iraq's first since the ouster of Saddam Hussein - is due to be elected.

Meanwhile, a French journalist working in Baghdad has received a video showing a masked militant firing the missile that hit a DHL civilian cargo jet over Baghdad on Saturday, setting its engine ablaze in the first successful hit on a plane of the seven-month-old insurgency.

The six-minute-long footage, received by Sara Daniel, correspondent of Paris-based weekly Le Nouvel Observateur, shows 10 militants, with their faces concealed by chequered keffiyeh headdresses or white scarves, carrying out the attack from scrubland south of the capital.

The shoulder-launched missile is seen shooting up into the sky after being fired by one of the cell and then homing in on the Airbus-300 freighter.

The vapour trail makes a sharp U-turn as the missile homes in on the infra-red or radio signals from the scheduled Baghdad to Dubai courier flight.

The militants are then seen making their get-away in a car.

The 11th who presumably shot the footage films his own lap in his haste to get into the vehicle.

After a break, the video resumes with footage of the stricken airliner diving back down to Baghdad airport, in clearly amateur footage shot through electricity lines.

The men, clad in flowing black abayas or camouflage fatigues, carry rocket-propelled grenade launchers or Kalashnikovs as well as two portable missile launchers.

Only one missile is seen fired.

Before the firing, a US army helicopter is seen hovering in the middle distance, but the militants have clearly chosen their target and leave the military aircraft alone. – Sapa-AFP.
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