BAGHDAD, Iraq – Fallujah’s civic leaders joined American officials Monday in calling for insurgents battling Marines here to surrender their weapons in return for an end to the U.S. siege of the the city, according to a U.S. spokesman.
The committments appeared to be the first fruits of direct negotiations between U.S. officials and a group of civic leaders and professions representing Fallujah residents.
The joint statement also outlines promises to improve the humanitarian situation in the beseiged city and to attempt a restoration of control in the city to Irasqi security forces, U.S. spokesman Dan Senor said.
Maj. Gen. Mark Kimmitt warned, however, that if the deal fell apart, Marines were prepared to attack and take the city quickly.
“It would appear there is an agreed political track,” he told reporters. “There is also a very clear understanding … that should this agreement not go through Marine forces are more than prepared to carry through with military operations” and could sieze Fallujah “in fairly short order.”
In the statement, all parties “call on citizens and groups to turn in all illegal weapons,” Senor said.
“The parties agreed that coalition forces do not intend to resume offensive operations if all persons inside the city turn in the heavy weapons,” Senor said. “Individual violators will be dealt with on individual basis.”
The Fallujah representatives are believed to have influence with Sunni insurgents in the city, a hotbed of the anti-U.S. insurgency that has taken a record 99 American lives in combat action this month alone.