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Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr maintained his defiant stance against the U.S. as intense fighting in Sadr City and Najaf claimed more lives this weekend, including that of a Sadr relative and supporter, Riyad al-Nuri.

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Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki faced a crisis last week when 1,000 to 1,500 of his troops, including from several dozen to more than 100 officers, refused to fight in the battle against Shiite militia members in Basra, raising questions about Iraqi security force readiness.

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Determined to show just how adolescent they can be, U.S. representatives in Baghdad have expressed dissatisfaction and suspicion over a pair of power plants that Iranian and Chinese companies plan to build in Iraq. One American military official described the contracts this way: "As you know, it's not always as it appears."

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Iraqis want Americans out of their country more than ever, as indicated by the recent mass protest in Najaf. But if you ask Joe Lieberman, the sight of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis chanting anti-American slogans and tearing apart our flag was just proof that the "surge" is working.

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A massive procession made up of tens of thousands of Shiites marched to the holy city of Najaf on Monday to protest the U.S. occupation on the fourth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad. One might recall that these are the very Iraqis who, having been oppressed by Saddam Hussein, were supposed to greet us as liberators.

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An anonymous U.S. official said on Tuesday that prominent Shiite cleric and Iraqi political figure Moqtada al-Sadr had fled to Iran in order to escape either an American crackdown or fringe elements of his own militia. But several Iraqi officials on Wednesday, also speaking anonymously, said al-Sadr was still in Iraq.

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U.S. and Iraqi soldiers killed 250 militants Sunday in a day of fighting in Najaf. According to an Iraqi official, the battle with the previously unknown militia involved tanks, jets and helicopters, one of which was shot down.

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