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Militia of Rebel Iraqi Shi'ite Cleric Offers Truce
" By Alistair Lyon
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A rebel Shi'ite Muslim militia led by Moqtada al-Sadr pledged on Thursday to disarm in what could be a major advance for U.S.-Iraqi efforts to calm violence in Iraq ahead of elections due in January.
The proposal, which meets a key demand of the interim government, was announced by Ali Smeism, a top Sadr adviser, on Arabic al-Arabiya television. It followed the release of a pro-Sadr cleric from U.S. detention in Abu Ghraib jail.
Smeism said that in return for any weapons surrender, the government must guarantee that Sadr's followers are not "persecuted" and the U.S. military must free more of his aides.
He said the proposed deal focused on militiamen holed up in the Baghdad slum district of Sadr City, a hotbed of anti-U.S. activity, but could be extended to other "areas of tension."
Talks are also under way to defuse a standoff with insurgents controlling the Sunni Muslim stronghold of Falluja. "
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