U.S. military officials in Iraq say some Marine units are preparing to pull back
from positions in the strife-ridden city of Fallujah, to coincide with the arrival
of Iraqi security forces commanded by former officers of Saddam Hussein's disbanded
army. U.S. warplanes mounted strikes in Fallujah for a third consecutive day
as 10 U.S. servicemen were killed elsewhere in the country.
U.S. military officials deny that any full-scale withdrawal of Marines from
Fallujah is under way. Rather, they say U.S. forces are being "repositioned" in
and around Fallujah to allow Iraqi security forces to assume a lead role in
efforts to quell an uprising provoked by an estimated one-to-two thousand die-hard
Saib al-Gilani is one of several intermediaries who have overseen tenuous
negotiations between U.S. forces and the insurgents that, at one point, yielded
a fragile ceasefire.
"We have heard that the American troops are going to withdraw their powers
from Fallujah and this, if it would happen, would be a very good sign, an indicator
of peaceful progress," he said. "I was a member of the first delegation that
went to Fallujah for negotiations with the fighters there and with the people
in Fallujah. We insisted from the beginning that peace should become a language
and there is no general or popular punishment just because of a few aggressive
actions from somebody."
In spite of the apparent easing of the U.S. military presence in Fallujah,
U.S. warplanes continued to strike targets in the city believed to be under
of the insurgents. Coalition forces hope to stabilize Iraq's security situation
ahead of a planned June 30 transfer of power.
Elsewhere in Iraq, the death toll for U.S. troops continues to mount. Eight
U.S. soldiers were killed and several others wounded in a car bombing near
Baghdad Thursday, while separate attacks on U.S. convoys in Baghdad and Baquba
left two other U.S. soldiers dead. The violence raised the death toll for U.S.
forces in Iraq to 126 in April, the highest monthly total since the occupation
Meanwhile, a public opinion poll of nearly 3500 Iraqis showed most are glad
that Saddam Hussein was ousted, but that many have serious misgivings about
the continued presence of U.S. troops in their country. The CNN/USA Today Gallup
poll showed a slim majority of 51 percent, saying that they and their families
are better off now than they were before last year's U.S.-led invasion, but
57 percent said coalition forces should leave Iraq "immediately," and 58 percent
did not approve of the tactics and conduct of U.S. troops.