Iraq's interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi says he is still attempting to reach a peaceful settlement that, among other things, would result in the handover of wanted militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and others associated with him. There is a $25 million reward for al-Zarqawi's capture, but tribal leaders in Fallujah have said he is not in the area. For weeks, U.S. forces have waged a daily bombing campaign on &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/accidents/ 21/93/375/13145_Fallujah.html ' target=_blank>Fallujah, targeting safe houses, secret meeting places and known associates of the wanted militant. Senior Iraqi interim government officials have said the bombing runs are also intended to prepare the city for what is expected to be a possible massive ground assault involving U.S. and Iraqi military personnel. British troops arriving from Basra, in southern Iraq, are expected to take up positions south of Baghdad once the possible ground assault begins, says Voice of America.
According to Reuters, &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/main/2003/01/15/42085.html ' target=_blank>Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said Wednesday he would not withdraw troops from Iraq despite a threat by a militant group to behead a Japanese hostage within 48 hours unless Tokyo pulled its forces out.
The hostage standoff is a political challenge for Koizumi, who decided to send Japanese troops to Iraq despite strong public opposition.