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Arab League Appeals to UN to Help Restore Calm in Iraq - 2004-04-07

The Arab League is appealing to the United Nations to help restore calm in Iraq, in the wake of fierce fighting involving both Suni and Shi'ite insurgents and coalition forces.

Responding to the increased level of fighting in Iraq, the 22-member Arab League is calling on the United Nations to immediately intervene to restore calm.

"We are concerned for the loss of life, the destruction of property, for the destabilization of an already very fragile situation, in terms of security," said Arab League spokesman Hossam Zaki. "In humanitarian terms, we have concerns as well. It's a very alarming situation, as now instability and fighting in about six cities. One of them is put under siege almost by American troops, and this is a very, very alarming situation.?

U.S. military officials in Iraq vowed Wednesday to hunt down members of a radical Shi'ite Muslim group in the central and southern regions of Iraq, and called on its wanted leader, Moqtada al-Sadr, to surrender.

Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt said coalition forces are conducting operations to destroy the militia in what he said would be deliberate, precise and successful attacks.

Almost 200 civilians and soldiers have been killed in fierce fighting since Sunday, including at least 12 Marines during an attack Tuesday in Ramadi, west of Baghdad. U.S. officials said a significant number of Iraqis were also killed during battles there.

U.S. troops have cordoned off the city of Fallujah, west of Baghdad, where intense fighting was reported Wednesday. U.S. forces launched operations this week in Fallujah and Ramadi to hunt down those involved in the killing last week of four American private security guards. A crowd of Iraqis burned and mutilated the bodies.

The Arab League said it is watching the mounting violence in Iraq with extreme concern.