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Iraqi Leaders Quelling Insurgencies West of Baghdad in Wake of Najaf Deal - 2004-08-30

Iraq's interim government has been talking with Sunni Muslim and tribal leaders in the western cities of Fallujah and Ramadi in a bid to end insurgencies there. The peace agreement that ended firebrand Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's uprising against Iraqi and U.S. forces in Najaf still holds, and Mr. al-Sadr now is calling on supporters elsewhere in Iraq to stop fighting, too.

The rebel Shi'ite cleric has called on his followers throughout the country to stop fighting against U.S. and Iraqi forces.

A top aide to Moqtada al-Sadr says the cleric is also calling for Iraqi and U.S. troops to leave city centers to ease tensions and possible confrontations. He says Mr. al-Sadr will also announce his plans for creating a major political movement.

At the same time, Iraq's interim government is trying to broker an end to the insurgency raging in the predominantly Sunni area west of Baghdad. The efforts appear to be gaining momentum in the wake of the peace deal brokered last Friday that ended a three-week Shi'ite militant uprising in the holy city of Najaf.

Militant attacks on several oil pipelines in the north and south during the last several days have sharply cut Iraq's exports.

In other news, France is appealing for the release of two French journalists after Iraqi militants threatened to kill the hostages. The militants are demanding that France repeal its ban on traditional Muslim headscarves in public schools.

The new French law prohibits any outwardly public display of religion in public schools, which includes wearing Muslim headscarves, Jewish skullcaps or oversized Catholic crosses.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has joined other Muslim and Arab leaders who condemn the kidnappings and call for the immediate release of the French reporters.

France was one of the most vocal opponents of the U.S. war in Iraq and has not contributed troops to the U.S.-led coalition there.

Last week, an Italian journalist was executed by his Iraqi kidnappers, after Italy rejected their demands to pull its troops out of Iraq.