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March Marks Deadliest Month in Iraq Since Last August

Recent fighting between Iraqi security forces and Shi'ite militias loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has raised the monthly death toll in Iraq to its highest level since last August.

Combined figures released Tuesday from Iraq's interior, defense and health ministries show that more than 1,000 Iraqi civilians and security personnel were killed in March.

That figure is nearly double the number of Iraqi deaths in February and marks the highest monthly death toll since last August, when nearly 2,000 people died.

At least 400 deaths were registered last week, during fighting in Basra and other Shi'ite areas in the south. That violence prompted Britain Tuesday to postpone plans to withdraw up to 1,500 British troops from Iraq.

British Defense Secretary Des Brown said it would be prudent to pause any further reductions while the situation is, as he put it, unfolding.

Basra is enjoying a second day of relative calm today after Sadr called his fighters off the street on Sunday, allowing a curfew to be lifted.

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

Earlier, the prime minister said his office would recruit 10,000 more troops and take steps to enhance public services in the city. He later returned to Baghdad after a week of overseeing the offensive in Basra, which he called "a success."

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