Wanted cleric softens tone

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Special UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said he was hopeful the current ceasefire between US forces and insurgents in Fallujah would lead to a peaceful settlement in the besieged Sunni bastion.

While a kidnapped French journalist was freed in Iraq, around 40 foreigners were still being held hostage amid a wave of abductions designed to shake the US coalition.

Iran sent a top foreign ministry official to Iraq for talks with coalition officials, Iraqi politicians and religious figures to help mediate an end to the current wave of unrest, the official IRNA news agency said.

US forces were poised to capture or kill Sadr, thought to be hiding in the southern city of Najaf, Iraq’s holiest city. He is wanted for the murder of a rival cleric last year.