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US, Iraqi Insurgents Hold Secret Meetings: Report

US diplomats and military officers have held secret meetings with Iraqi Sunni insurgents in search of ways to end fighting between the two sides, the Time magazine reported on its Web site on Sunday.
One such meeting took place in the heavily guarded US-controlled green zone in Baghdad, between an Iraqi negotiator -- a middle-aged former member of Saddam Hussein's regime and the senior representative of the self-described nationalist insurgency, and two members of the US military, the report said.

The US officers pressed the Iraqi for names of other insurgent leaders, while the Iraqi said the newly elected Shiite-dominated government was being controlled by Iran, according to the report.

Two such meetings had taken place, the Iraqi negotiator was quoted as saying. While US officials would not confirm the details of any specific meetings, the report quoted sources in Washington as saying that for the first time the United States was in direct contact with members of the Sunni insurgency, including former members of Saddam Hussein's regime.

The secret contacts with insurgent leaders were being conducted mainly by US diplomats and intelligence officers, the report quoted Pentagon officials as saying.

According to the report, both the insurgents and the US side had been feeling each other out for months, and some of the earliest advances were made last year through Jordanian intelligence officers.

(Xinhua News Agency February 21, 2005)

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