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Iraqi Shi'ite Leader Rejects UN-Proposed Conference on Iraq


A senior Iraqi Shi'ite leader expected to meet with President Bush in Washington on Monday has rejected a U.N. suggestion to hold an international conference on Iraq.

Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, who heads the powerful Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, said Saturday that discussing Iraqi issues at an international conference is unreasonable and incorrect. He said a solution to the conflict in Iraq must come from within.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said last week a conference bringing together all of Iraq's factions somewhere outside the country could be useful.

Violence continued in Iraq Saturday. Authorities say gunmen killed an Interior Ministry official in the Jadida district of Baghdad. Officials say gunmen also opened fire on a funeral procession near the town of Khalis, killing two Shi'ites.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military says Iraqi and U.S. forces began coordinated operations today against insurgent cells in Baquba, 50 kilometers northeast of Baghdad. A separate statement says a U.S. soldier died Friday from wounds sustained in combat action in al Anbar Province.

The White House says President Bush plans to meet in January with Iraq's Sunni vice president, Tareq al-Hashemi.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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