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Iraqi PM Declares Military Operation in Basra a 'Success'


Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki says the military operation to crack down against Shi'ite militias in the southern city of Basra was a success.

Mr. Maliki also said Tuesday that his office will recruit 10,000 more troops and take steps to enhance public services in the city.

Iraqi officials said the recent fighting between Shi'ite militias and security forces in the south of the country helped make March the deadliest month for Iraqis since August 2007.

Combined figures from Iraq's interior, defense and health ministries show nearly 1,100 Iraqi civilians and security personnel were killed last month. That figure is nearly double the number of Iraqi deaths tallied in February.

The March figure includes about 923 civilian deaths.

At least 400 people were killed in the last week during fighting between militants loyal to Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and Iraqi and coalition forces in Baghdad and the southern city of Basra.

Sadr called his fighters off the streets Sunday, prompting authorities to lift a curfew in Baghdad.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the outbreak of violence in southern Iraq has not changed U.S. plans to withdraw some troops from Iraq over the next few months.

Speaking in Denmark Monday, Gates praised Prime Minister Maliki's efforts to tackle Shi'ite militias in Basra - the center of Iraq's oil industry.

Iraqi lawmakers say Iranian officials helped broker the new truce with al-Sadr's group. They say Iraqi politicians close to Prime Minister Maliki traveled to Iran to ask authorities to urge an end to the violence.

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

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