US Joins Basra Battle; Maliki Extends Deadline

Maliki extends deadline as fighting continues
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 28, 2008 8:18 AM CDT
Iraqis hold an banner of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr during a protest in the Kazimiyah neighborhood of Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, March 27, 2008.    (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)
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(Newser) – Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki today gave Shia militants in Basra 10 more days to turn over their weapons, as fighting continued in Iraq’s third largest city. The US, meanwhile, made its first moves in the fight, bombing Mahdi Army positions, the BBC reports. Muqtada al Sadr, the radical cleric who leads the Shia militias, called last night for a political solution to end the fighting that has claimed 130 lives.

An aide to Sadr said today no talks are in the works. The deadline extension, which came with a promise of monetary rewards, marks a shift in tone for Maliki. A BBC analyst speculated that either the PM is finding a military victory more difficult than expected, or there are behind-the-scenes efforts to negotiate a solution.