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Iraqi Shi'ites Converge on Najaf - 2004-08-14


From Baghdad and other Iraqi cities, thousands of supporters of radical Shi'ite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr are heading for Najaf to demand that U.S. troops and Iraqi government forces withdraw from the holy city.

Demonstrators have been converging on Najaf from a number of Iraqi cities since Friday, when nine days of intense fighting in the holy city ended. A tense standoff continues, but Iraqi government officials are said to be negotiating a formal cease-fire with Shi'ite militiamen.

Moqtada al-Sadr, who was slightly wounded Friday, has said his Medhi Army fighters will leave Najaf if American and Iraqi government forces encircling the city withdraw and allow religious authorities to assume responsibility for the city. He also has demanded the resignation of the interim government in Baghdad.