Direct talks between the United States and civil leaders of the besieged city of Fallujah produced their first concrete results: an appeal for insurgents to turn in their mortars, surface-to-air missiles, rocket-propelled grenades and other heavy weapons, U.S. officials announced Monday.Honduras will remove its 370 troops from Iraq "in the shortest time possible," President Ricardo Maduro said Monday, confirming U.S. fears that its Central American ally might leave Iraq. Honduran forces had been serving in Najaf under Spanish command, alongside small forces from El Salvador and the Dominican Republic.
In return, the U.S. military said it does not intend to resume its offensive in the Sunni Muslim stronghold as long as militants are disarming.
But "there is also a very clear understanding ... that should this agreement not go through, Marines forces are more than prepared to carry through with military operations," U.S. Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt told reporters in Baghdad.
He said U.S. troops were poised to take the city "in a very short order."
U.S. forces and Iraqi leaders have also reached what could be a face-saving agreement for both in Fallujah, reports CBS News Correspondent Kimberly Dozier. The elements of the tentative deal call for Marines to enter the city with Iraqi security forces at their side. Together, they will go after those who killed and mutilated four American contractors.
"Coalition forces do not intend to resume offensive operations if all persons inside the city turn in their heavy weapons," said Dan Senor, Coalition Provisional Authority spokesperson
In other developments:
President Bush expressed regret Monday at what he called Spain's "abrupt" announcement that it would withdraw its 1,3000 troops from Iraq. Mr. Bush cautioned new Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero to avoid actions that give "false comfort to terrorists or enemies of freedom in Iraq."
U.S. troops shot to death two employees of U.S.-funded television station Al-Iraqiya on Monday and wounded a third in the central city of Samara, the station said. It broke into normal programming to announce the deaths, saying "American forces opened fire on them while they were performing their duty," reports CBS' Lisa Barron. The Pentagon had no immediate comment.
President Bush named John Negroponte, the current U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, as the new U.S. ambassador to Iraq. He would begin his job when the U.S. hands over political power to an interim Iraqi government by a June 30 deadline.
Negotiations with captors holding three Italians hostage were successful and the men could be released within days, the Italian news agency Apcom reported late Monday, without citing its sources.
L. Paul Bremer, the top U.S. civilian administrator in Iraq, said Iraqi security forces will not be ready by the June 30th deadline to protect their country against rebel forces. That unusually blunt assessment appears aimed at defending a continued heavy presence of U.S. troops in Iraq even after an Iraqi government takes over.
Weekend battles in Iraq pushed the death toll for U.S. troops in April to 99. Around 700 U.S. servicemen have died in Iraq since the war began. More than 1,050 Iraqis have been killed this month.
Iraq probably had biological and chemical weapons, the head of Denmark's military intelligence agency said Monday. But a Danish intelligence report dated March 7, 2003, concluded that there was no "certain information that Iraq has operative weapons of mass destruction."
On another front, the U.S. military began to reduce its forces outside the southern city of Najaf. The commander of the force said Monday there were no plans to move soon to capture rebel Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, holed up in the holy city.
A force of 2,500 Army troops that deployed outside Najaf on April 13 on a mission to capture or kill radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr began to rotate out, replaced by a smaller force on around 2,000 soldiers from the U.S. Army's 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment.
Al-Sadr's militia "has for the most part been contained in Najaf," U.S. Army Col. Dana J. H. Pittard said. "We can wait ... They will still be there. Ultimately we still want Iraqis to solve this problem."
On Monday, Al-Sadr ordered a halt in all attacks on Spanish troops based in Najaf after Zapatero decided to withdraw his country's forces.
Al-Sadr's office called on Iraqis to "maintain the safety of the Spanish forces until their return home" and urged "the governments of the other armies taking part in Iraq's occupation to follow the Spanish government's example.
Between Najaf and nearby Kufa, U.S. troops clashed with al-Sadr militiamen, who wounded two Americans and seized an abandoned Humvee, setting it on fire in front of a mosque.
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