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Peace Talks in Iraq Enter Final Phase, says Iraqi PM

Iraq's interim prime minister, Iyad Allawi, says government patience is running thin in efforts to find a peaceful solution to insurgencies in several Iraqi cities. The prime minister is threatening military action in a continuing effort to clear the way for national elections in about three months.

While American forces battled with insurgents west of Baghdad in the rebellious city of Ramadi, Iraq's interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said efforts to find a peaceful solution to insurgencies in Ramadi and Fallujah had entered what he called "the final phase." As the prime minister put it, "Our patience is running thin."

Mr. Allawi said he has been meeting with tribal leaders in a bid to restore control in Fallujah and Ramadi. But, the prime minister said the window for reaching a peaceful settlement is closing. He said if a peaceful solution cannot be found, he will have no choice but to take military action. But he said no timetable has been established.

U.S. and Iraqi forces are gearing up for what is expected to be a major ground assault on Fallujah, where thousands of insurgents are believed to be holed up. For weeks, American forces have waged almost daily precision bombings in and around Fallujah, targeting suspected militant hideouts, safe houses and weapon-storage areas.

Saturday, eight U.S. Marines were killed and 10 others wounded by a car bomb near Fallujah.

Speaking to reporters in Baghdad, Prime Minister Allawi said that 167 foreign fighters have been arrested during the past few weeks. He identified some of the fighters as being from Syria, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Egypt and Jordan.

The prime minister also said about 3,000 gunmen, loyal to a deputy of ousted leader Saddam Hussein, have been arrested. The gunmen were followers of the former vice president of Iraq, Izzat al-Duri, who remains on the loose.

In the meantime, two Iraqi National Guardsmen were killed, when gunmen ambushed their vehicle on a road southeast of Baghdad. And, two mortars exploded in an area recently occupied by British forces near Baghdad. No casualties were reported. In southern Iraq, 850 British troops from Basra moved northward to free up American troops that are preparing for the possible ground assault in Fallujah.