March 28th, 2008 03:09 EST
Shi'ite Gunmen given extended deadline
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has extended a deadline for Shi'ite gunmen fighting government forces in the southern city of Basra to surrender their weapons.
Mr. Maliki said in a statement that militants will be rewarded financially if they hand over their weapons anytime between this Saturday and April 8.
The Iraqi leader had earlier set Friday as a deadline for Shi'ite militias to disarm and warned of consequences if they did not comply.
At least 100 people have been killed in fierce fighting between Iraqi forces and Shi'ite militias that has been raging since Tuesday in Basra and other areas.
Iraqi authorities imposed a three-day curfew in Baghdad in a bid to contain violent clashes. Under the curfew, which will last until 5 a.m. Sunday, no unauthorized vehicles or pedestrians are allowed on the streets.
Shi'ite radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has called for a political solution to the crisis that has led to fierce fighting between his followers and Iraqi forces in Baghdad and southern Iraq. The clashes are straining a seven-month ceasefire called by Sadr.
In a statement released Thursday in the holy Shi'ite city of Najaf, Sadr said he wants everyone to pursue political solutions and peaceful protests and a stop to the shedding of Iraqi blood.
However, Mr. Maliki vowed to continue the military offensive in Basra "to the end" with no negotiations or retreat.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.