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Iraqi Prime Minister Approves Offensive in Fallujah

Interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi says he has given U.S. and Iraqi forces the authority to rid the city of Fallujah of terrorists. He also set out new emergency measures.

Speaking at a news conference in Baghdad, Mr. Allawi said the insurgents in the northwestern Iraqi cities of Fallujah and Ramadi are not interested in a peaceful settlement.

Mr. Allawi said a curfew would be imposed on Fallujah starting Monday at 6:00 p.m. local time. He said roads would be closed except to emergency vehicles and all public buildings would be closed, except for hospitals and fire stations.

He did not say how long the measures would be imposed. Sunday, the Iraqi government declared 60 days of emergency rule.

Mr. Allawi also announced the borders with Syria and Jordan would be sealed and Baghdad airport would be closed to civilian aviation for the next 48 hours.

Earlier, some of the 12,000 U.S. and Iraqi forces surrounding Fallujah began their long awaited offensive. They seized a hospital and two bridges. Mr. Allawi said that during the raid on the hospital, Iraqi forces killed 38 persons and captured four foreigners. He said they were stationed in the hospital in order to carry out terrorist actions.

U.S. commanders say they face up to 6,000 fighters, some Saddam Hussain loyalists, some followers of Jordanian al-Qaida ally Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and they may have to fight house by house for the city.

The attack on Fallujah aims at regaining control of the area and weakening the insurgency before planned Iraqi elections in January. The city has come under aerial bombardment and artillery fire for the past several days. Most of its civilian population has fled.