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New US Iraq Offensive Targets Sunni and Shi'ite Militants

The U.S. military launched a new offensive across Iraq Monday to crack down on Sunni and Shi'ite militants.

The military says Operation Phantom Strike consists of simultaneous operations against al-Qaida terrorists and what it calls "Iranian-supported" extremists.

The U.S. military also says one American soldier was killed in fighting today in a western part of Baghdad.

Earlier, it said coalition forces captured a suspected financier of a militant group with direct ties to Iran before dawn in western Baghdad.

Meanwhile, Iraqi political leaders are considering a call by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for a meeting to heal divisions that have weakened his unity government.

Mr. Maliki said Sunday that he hoped to gather the leaders of Iraq's sectarian factions for a meeting by Tuesday.

In another development, officials in Baghdad say an Iraqi court will open a third trial into alleged crimes committed by Saddam Hussein's deposed government.

Saddam's cousin, Ali Hassan al-Majid, also known as "Chemical Ali," and 14 other defendants will face charges in the brutal crushing of a Shi'ite uprising after the 1991 Gulf War. The hearings are set to begin August 21.

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