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Fighting in Iraqi Holy City into Sixth Day With No Relief in Sight - 2004-08-10

For a sixth day, U.S. forces, backed by U.S. warplanes, are battling militia loyal to the radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. The fighters refuse to leave the holy city of Najaf despite warnings they will be killed. The U.N. investigation into allegations of corruption in the oil-for-food program is seeking access to Iraqi records to check on possible illegal actions by U.N. staff.

In Najaf, U.S. forces are urging the fighters loyal to the Shi'ite Cleric Moqtada al-Sadr to surrender or be killed. U.S. Marines say several hundred insurgents of the so-called Mahdi Army have died in the clashes already. Iraq's Prime Minister has demanded the fighters leave the holy Shi'ite city.

U.S. warplanes attacked militia near the Shi'ite Muslim cemetery. The U.S. military says the insurgents are using the cemetery as a hideout and to store weapons.

Clashes have also been reported in a Shi'ite neighborhood of Baghdad. And, the threat of a disrupted oil flow in the south sparked a sudden surge in international oil prices on Tuesday. But prices dropped after news that oil production had been restored.

Iraq has accused neighboring Iran of supplying the Shi'ite insurgents with weapons but Iran denies the charge.

In other news, the independent panel set up to investigate allegations of corruption in the U.N. oil-for-food program is seeking access to Iraqi files. Panel investigators are checking claims that U.N. staffers as well as former government officials, activists and journalists from more than 40 countries may have profited illegally from the multi-billion dollar program.

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volker heads the panel. He told reporters in New York it will take some time to complete the investigation.

"This is, as you might suspect, a difficult process," Mr. Volker says. "There are masses and masses of documentary information. Just looking at the stuff in the U.N. and its agencies, I'm told there's something like ten thousand boxes."

And in Jordan, the son of Iraq's former Prime Minister Tariq Aziz says his father has written him about the charges that will be brought against him.

In a letter delivered by the International Red Cross, Mr. Aziz says the charges include responsibility for mass killings in 1979 and 1991. The 1979 murders refer to the execution of 22 Baath Party officials accused of plotting against Saddam Hussein. The 1991 killings refer to the crackdown of the Kurdish and Shi'ite uprisings after the Gulf War.

Mr. Aziz, Saddam Hussein and several other former Iraqi officials are in detention in Iraq awaiting their trials before a special war crimes tribunal.