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Iraqi Shi'ite Cleric Sadr Threatens to End Cease-Fire


Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has threatened to lift a cease-fire by his Mahdi Army militia, as renewed fighting in Baghdad's Sadr City district Tuesday killed at least 12 people.

In a statement Tuesday, Sadr warned he would announce the end of the more than seven-month-old cease-fire if he deems it necessary in order to achieve security and stability.

Sadr also called off a mass protest planned for Wednesday in Baghdad, saying he fears his supporters will be attacked. He had called the march to mark the fifth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad to U.S. forces.

Baghdad's military command has announced a vehicle ban in the capital from 5 a.m. to midnight (local time) Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Iraqi officials say government forces and U.S. troops continued to battle Shi'ite militias in Sadr City Tuesday.

In other news, Iran's foreign ministry spokesman, Mohammad Ali Hosseini, today condemned recent rocket attacks against the U.S.-controlled Green Zone in Baghdad.

Iranian state media say Hosseini also deplored civilian deaths and denounced U.S. forces for attacks on Sadr City and the southern city of Basra. He said Iran hopes that peace and security will be restored within Iraq soon.

Fighting has intensified in Iraq since Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered a crackdown on Shi'ite militias last month.

In other violence Tuesday, the U.S. military in Iraq said an explosion killed seven civilians and wounded 10 others in the village of Balad Ruz.

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