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Posted: 10/14/2004 11:21:37 AM EST
Hope this is not a dupe…

Looks like it could be 'Showtime' for real in Fallujah shortly… Allawi is getting his confidence up after Samarra.

Iraq's Allawi issues ultimatum to Falluja

Alistair Lyon

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq's interim prime minister warned the rebel-held city of Falluja on Wednesday it must hand over foreign militants, including America's top enemy in Iraq, or face a major operation to root them out.

Iyad Allawi's comments set a tough condition for negotiators seeking to defuse a months-long stand-off between U.S. forces and their Sunni Muslim foes in Iraq's most rebellious city.

Repeated U.S. air strikes have targeted buildings the military say are used by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian militant who has claimed some of the country's bloodiest suicide bombings and hostage beheadings.

"If Zarqawi and his group are not handed over to us, we are ready for major operations in Falluja," Allawi told Iraq's interim national council. "I hope they (people in Falluja) will respond. If they don't, we will have to use force."

Defence Minister Hazim Shaalan also said militants had to be eliminated. "Terrorists are controlling a large part of Falluja and we will get them sooner or later. There are non-Iraqis among them, they are Arabs," he told the Saudi Okaz daily.

Britain's Foreign Office warned on Wednesday that British nationals faced a direct threat of kidnapping in northern Iraq.

"There is a direct threat of kidnap to foreign nationals in northern Iraq and we believe that British nationals may be targeted," the Foreign Office said in a statement.

Last week, engineer Ken Bigley became the first British hostage in Iraq to die. He was beheaded by followers of Zarqawi.

U.S. troops called in air strikes on one Falluja district during fighting on Tuesday in which eight were killed.

Zarqawi's Tawhid and Jihad group cut the heads off two men it said were Iraqi intelligence officers and posted a video of their killings on the Internet.

REWARD

The United States has offered $25 million for information leading to the capture or killing of the Jordanian, whose group also beheaded two Americans last month.

Two other Westerners are still missing in Iraq -- French journalists Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot -- but the French government believes they are still alive.

Allawi delivered his ultimatum shortly after Falluja's chief negotiator said a peace deal with the government was near.

"We are very close to reaching a final settlement. Our main condition is that the U.S. army does not enter Falluja," said Khaled al-Jumaili, a Sunni cleric who belongs to the Mujahideen Shura (council), which wields some authority in the city.


www.reuters.co.uk/newsPackageArticle.jhtml?type=worldNews&storyID=602611§ion=news
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