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Sadr calls for anti-US rally

BAGHDAD: Shi'ite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr called yesterday for one million Iraqis to march against US "occupation" next week after his Mehdi Army militia battled US and government troops.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki yesterday said he planned to launch more crackdowns on militiamen as radical Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr called for a massive anti-US protest next week.

Maliki said future assaults by government forces could not be ruled out after last week's crackdown in Baghdad and the southern city of Basra, which mostly targeted fighters of Sadr's Mahdi Army militia.

The United Nations yesterday urged more efforts to clear Iraq of landmines, which it said threaten the population and complicate reconstruction and development projects.

"In addition to insecurity, Iraqis live amidst one of the greatest concentrations of landmines, unexploded ordnance and other explosive remnants of war in the world," said a joint statement by the UN Development Programme and the UN Children's Fund.

Marking the International Day for Mine Awareness, they warned that unexploded ordnance is "of higher risk to Iraqi children, who often mistake them for toys or harmless objects to play with.

The remains of 62 Iraqi soldiers who were killed in the 1991 Gulf War were repatriated yesterday from Saudi Arabia, the International Committee of the Red Cross said in a statement.

"ICRC delegates attended the exhumation of the bodies at the invitation of the Saudi authorities," the statement said.

The bodies were returned through Kuwait and handed over to Iraqi officials at the border between the two countries, it said Iraqi forces, acting on Saddam Hussein's orders, invaded Kuwait in August 1990 and occupied it for seven months before they were expelled by a US-led international coalition.

A US fighter jet destroyed a house in the Shiite southern city of Basra, killing two militants after American and Iraqi ground forces came under fire, the military said yesterday. Iraqi witnesses and officials said at least three civilians were among the dead.



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