As Iraq's interim government announced a date for national elections, U.S. and Iraqi forces intensified their attacks on insurgent positions west of Baghdad to restore security before the vote.
Interim Vice President Ibrahim al-Jaafari announced Friday that Iraqis would select a 275 member parliament on January 27. The parliament will draft a permanent constitution for the country.
Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has said he would use force if necessary to put down the insurgency in the mainly Sunni Muslim cities of Fallujah and Ramadi very soon.
Overnight, U.S. troops blocked all the roads leading in and out of Fallujah and stepped up bombings of insurgent targets. Women and children were also warned to leave the city, ahead of what many expect to be an imminent full-scale military assault.