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Major al-Qaida in Iraq figure jailed
Updated: 2006-02-28 15:52

Iraqi security forces announced the capture of a senior al-Qaida in Iraq figure as they sought to deflect criticism of their handling of a surge of sectarian violence. The U.S. ambassador said the risk of civil war from last week's crisis was over.

Violence throughout Iraq killed 36 people Monday, as fierce fighting broke out between Iraqi commandos and insurgents southeast of the capital. But sectarian clashes have declined sharply since the bloodletting that followed the destruction of a revered Shiite shrine in Samarra, and Baghdad residents returned to their jobs after three days of a government-imposed curfew.

"We were at home for three days doing nothing," tea vendor Abbas Kudir said. "We are of limited income. We earn money when people can come and buy tea normally. We hope the government will pay attention to our difficulties."

Sunni Arab leaders said they were prepared to end their boycott of the talks on a new government if Shiites return mosques seized in reprisal attacks against Sunnis and meet other unspecified demands.

"That crisis is over," U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad declared.

"I think the country came to the brink of a civil war, but the Iraqis decided that they didn't want to go down that path, and came together," the ambassador told CNN. "Clearly the terrorists who plotted that attack wanted to provoke a civil war. It looked quite dangerous in the initial 48 hours, but I believe that the Iraqis decided to come together."
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