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Baghdad quiet after security clampdown extended

Written by: Staff

BAGHDAD, Feb 26 (Reuters) The Iraqi capital remained quiet today, the beginning of the work week, with a traffic ban extended until tomorrow to reduce the threat of further violence.

Defence Minister Saadoun al-Dulaimi warned yesterday of the risk of endless ''civil war'' as sectarian violence flared again, killing more than 40, and Sunni and Shi'ite leaders pleaded for a halt to four days of bloodshed.

As prospects faded of a US troop withdrawal in the near future, President George W Bush asked Iraqi leaders to work together to end the cycle of violence that followed the suspected al Qaeda bombing of a Shi'ite shrine on Wednesday.

Joined by the US ambassador, those leaders met for three hours and later appeared on television to affirm their commitment to US-sponsored efforts to forge a national unity government and call for an end to sectarian strife.

Shi'ite Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, flanked by Kurdish and Arab Sunni leaders, called on all Iraqis to unite and fight terrorism at the news conference.

The violence since the bombing that destroyed the Golden Mosque in Samarra, one of the four main Shi'ite holy places in Iraq, has claimed more than 200 lives, according to police and army sources, although the defence minister said the toll was half that.


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