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DIWANIYA - Iraq's defence minister declared the army's truce with Shiite militants in the central city of Diwaniyah null and void on Wednesday and demanded an inquiry into the murder of 13 soldiers.

Fighting erupted in Diwaniyah on Sunday between Iraqi army troops and the Mahdi Army militia. Officials reported that 23 soldiers, 50 militants and eight civilians were killed before local officials could negotiate a ceasefire.

Visiting the city Wednesday, Defence Minister Abdel Qader Jassim Mohammed denounced the truce under which the army agreed to pull out of residential areas, and rejected the idea of concessions to the gunmen.

He also said that 13 of the military's dead had been "executed" by the militia fighters and demanded that this be investigatied while an "extraordinary security plan" be implemented in the city.

08/30/2006 13:02 GMT

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