Iraqi Officials Consider Extension of Curfew

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An Iraqi soldier checks a motorist at a checkpoint along a road in Baghdad

An Iraqi soldier checks a motorist at a checkpoint along a road in Baghdad, Feb. 26. Reuters hide caption

itoggle caption Reuters

Baghdad awakes Sunday to a third consecutive day under curfew. Iraqi authorities are trying to contain violence after Wednesday's attack on a sacred Shiite shrine. The curfew is meant to end Monday morning, but Iraqi officials say they may extend it for another day.

DON GONYEA, host:

From NPR News, this is WEEKEND EDITION. I'm Don Gonyea sitting in for Liane Hansen.

Baghdad awoke to another day of lockdown, under curfew again for the third day in a row. Iraqi authorities are trying to contain any violence that might rear itself following the attack on Wednesday of a scared Shiite shrine.

The curfew is meant to end Monday morning, but Iraqi officials say they may extend it for another day.

NPR's Jamie Tarabay is in Baghdad. Hi, Jamie.

JAMIE TARABAY reporting:

Good morning.

GONYEA: Has the curfew done any good?

TARABAY: Well, within Baghdad itself there's been very little activity. Only official vehicles are allowed on the road, and so people have been traveling within their own neighborhoods on foot. Just outside the capital, however, there has been some violence.

The curfew is expected to be lifted in Baghdad on Monday morning at 6:00 AM, but officials I spoke to today think it might be extended. They don't know how the atmosphere will be, and they are worried that attacks will resume if the curfew is lifted.

GONYEA: And just what are the leaders doing? I understand they met last night.

TARABAY: Yes. That's right. President Bush spoke to many of them by telephone and they all had dinner together at Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari's residence. Many of them were present, the Sunni and the Shiite leaders as well as the Kurdish officials. And Jaafari, at the end of this very tense, very tough meeting, drew up a list of 24 conditions that he promises will be fulfilled very, very soon. And these are demands that the Sunnis made before they would agree to go back and negotiate the formation of a national unity government.

The Sunnis are going to wait for the Shiites to fulfill all of these conditions before they return to the negotiations. So they're still awaiting to see. They say they were happy now, but we'll see what happens next

GONYEA: And just quickly. Muqtada al-Sadr has returned to Iraq. Tell us about that.

TARABAY: Muqtada al-Sadr is a radical Shiite cleric who's very popular here with many Iraqi Shiites. He also has a militia, the Mehdi Army, and they've been largely responsible for many of the attacks against the Sunnis in the aftermath of the attack on the Samarra shrine.

One of the conditions that the Sunnis have laid out is the disarmament of the militias. And its going to be very interesting to see whether al-Sadr will agree.

GONYEA: NPR's Jamie Tarabay in Baghdad.

Thanks, Jamie.

TARABAY: Thank you.

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