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Iraq Fires 1,300 Police, Troops for Refusing to Fight Militants


Iraq's government says it has dismissed 1,300 security personnel for dereliction of duty during a recent crackdown on armed Shi'ite groups in southern Iraq.

After Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki launched an offensive in Basra last month against criminal gangs and Shi'ite militants, the operation met fierce resistance, and fighting spread to Baghdad and other Shi'ite areas.

Iraqi officials later admitted that hundreds of police and other members of the security forces had refused to fight in the offensive. Some security personnel defected and handed over their weapons and equipment to the militias, including the fighters loyal to radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

Meanwhile, Iraq's Cabinet approved a draft law Sunday that would ban political parties with militias from participating in provincial elections later this year.

Mr. Maliki has threatened to bar Sadr's political movement from the October 1 elections if the cleric does not disband his Mahdi Army militia.

The draft law must be approved by the Iraqi parliament before taking effect.

The fighting that began in Basra last month has subsided, but Iraqi officials say their security crackdown is continuing there.

Iraqi and U.S. forces have been engaged in heavy fighting for the past two weeks with armed groups in Baghdad's Sadr City district, a stronghold of Sadr's Mahdi Army militia.

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

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