Fallujah Calm, but 2 Iraqi Reporters Die Elsewhere

On a day one U.S. military official described as "eerily quiet," Fallujah's civic leaders called for enemy fighters to surrender their heavy weapons in return for an end to the U.S. siege of the city.

But all was not peaceful elsewhere, with news that American troops on Monday shot and killed two Iraqi journalists and injured a third from the U.S.-funded Al-Iraqiya television, according to the station.

Correspondent Asaad Kadhim and driver Hussein Saleh were killed in the firefight in the central city of Samara, the station reported, and cameraman Bassem Kamel was wounded "after American forces opened fire on them while they were performing their duty."

The station, which is funded by the Pentagon, interrupted its broadcasts to announce the deaths and showed photos of Kadhim. It then began airing only Koranic texts as a symbol of mourning.

The U.S. military had no immediate comment.

Thamir Ibrahim, an Al-Iraqiya editor, told The Associated Press he had no details on how the shooting occurred. But "it was on the road leading to the city of Samara. Before they reached it, they were fired upon."

They were taken to a Samara hospital, he said. "We wanted to go (to them) now, but the road is closed, so we will go tomorrow."

In Fallujah, site of some of the heaviest anti-American sentiment in Iraq, the call from leaders for an agreement represents the initial success of direct negotiations between them and U.S. officials. But U.S. officials said they were prepared to act quickly if the deal fell apart.

"It would appear there is an agreed political track," Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt (search) told reporters. "There is also a very clear understanding ... that should this agreement not go through Marine forces are more than prepared to carry through with military operations" and could seize Fallujah "in fairly short order."

U.S. and Fallujah officials issued a joint statement that promises to improve the humanitarian situation in the besieged city and to attempt to restore control to Iraqi security forces there, U.S. spokesman Dan Senor (search) said.

In the statement, all parties "call on citizens and groups to turn in all illegal weapons," Senor said.

"The parties agreed that coalition forces do not intend to resume offensive operations if all persons inside the city turn in the heavy weapons," Senor said. "Individual violators will be dealt with on individual basis."

Senor said that as part of the deal coalition forces agreed to:

— allow unfettered access to the city's hospital.

— arrange for the removal and burial of the dead and the provision of food and medicine to isolated areas of the city.

— relax the curfew, which would now begin at 9 p.m. instead of 7 p.m.

— facilitate the passage of ambulances through checkpoints.

— consider "in due course" allowing civilians to enter the city, starting with 50 families a day, "commencing on Tuesday."

The two sides also agreed:

— to call on civilians to turn in illegal weapons, which Senor defined as mortars, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, sniper rifles, bomb-making materials, grenades and surface-to-air missiles.

— on the need to restore patrols in the city by U.S. and Iraqi security forces.

— on the need to begin investigations into the killing and mutilation of four U.S. civilian contractors.

The Fallujah representatives are believed to have influence with Sunni insurgents in the city, a hotbed of the anti-U.S. insurgency that has taken a record 99 American lives in combat action this month alone.

In Fallujah on Monday, Marine Lt. Col. Brennan Byrne (search) said the western city remained "eerily quiet" for the second straight day.

Marines encouraged shopkeepers to resume selling food, and Byrne said civilians were being allowed to flee through a pair of checkpoints. Some 5,000 left Fallujah on Saturday. A third of the city's residents already have fled during the Marines' 15-day siege.

Elsewhere, the top U.S. administrator in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer (search), said again that insurgents responsible for recent waves of violence against coalition troops and who want to "shoot their way to power" must be stopped.

He said Iraqi security forces were not up to the job and defended the continued heavy presence of U.S. troops even after an Iraqi government takes over June 30.

In an unusually blunt speech in Baghdad on Sunday, Bremer said the recent surge in fighting shows that Iraq's beleaguered security forces "need outside help" to fight anti-U.S. guerrillas here.

"Early this month, the foes of democracy overran Iraqi police stations and seized public buildings in several parts of the country," he said. "Iraqi forces were unable to stop them."

Spain's new foreign minister, meanwhile, said his country's plans to withdraw its troops from Iraq should not harm its long-term relations with the United States.

Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos also said the government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero (search) will honor Spain's pledges at the recent Iraq Donor's Conference and help in Iraq's reconstruction and transition to democracy.

"We're not washing our hands" of the situation, Moratinos said in an interview Monday in the El Pais newspaper.

The Army, meanwhile, said it was in no hurry to take the southern city of Najaf from Shiite followers of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr (search). The Army was beginning to rotate 2,500 soldiers from their position outside Najaf, replacing them with 2,000 seasoned troops from the force that has been occupying Baghdad for nearly a year.

Al-Sadr on Sunday called a two-day cease-fire to mark the anniversary of the death of the Prophet Muhammad. He also ordered a halt in all attacks on Spanish troops based in Najaf after Spain's prime minister decided to withdraw his country's forces from the country as soon as possible.

Al-Sadr's office called on Iraqis to "maintain the safety of the Spanish forces until their return home" and urged "the governments of the other armies taking part in Iraq's occupation to follow the Spanish government's example."

As many as 40 Iraqi fighters have been killed in almost a week of skirmishes on the outskirts of Najaf, Army Col. Dana J. H. Pittard said. No Americans have been killed in the fighting, but four have died in attacks on convoys in the area since the 2,500-member task force deployed Tuesday.

Army shelling near the restive town of Baqouba Sunday night killed a family of four, when artillery pounded their farmhouse, said Nasir Kadhim, the mortuary director at Baqouba hospital.

At least 40 more Iraqis were killed over the weekend -- mostly in fighting near the Syrian border -- bringing the Iraqi death toll in April to around 1,100, including civilians, insurgents and police.

The weekend's fighting pushed the April death toll for American troops to at least 99 killed in action. It has been the deadliest month since the U.S.-led invasion began in March 2003.

Until now, the single-month record for U.S. troops killed was 82, in November. Around 700 U.S. servicemen have died in Iraq.

On Saturday, five Marines and five soldiers were killed in combat.

Pittard, the commander of U.S. Army forces encircling Najaf, said al-Sadr's militia -- along with other insurgents -- "has for the most part been contained in Najaf."

He said the Army was in no rush to take the Shiite holy city while negotiations with the rebels continued.

"We can wait," Pittard said. "They will still be there. Ultimately we still want Iraqis to solve this problem."

Pittard said his task force would on Tuesday begin returning to its previous zone northeast of Baghdad. The replacement troops from the Army's 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, operating under command of the 1st Armored Division, began arriving in Najaf on Monday.

In other developments:

— In the northern city of Kirkuk, U.S. troops detained a Shiite member of the city council, Yousr Mahdi Jumaa, accusing him of being a member of al-Sadr's militia, said city council president Tahsin Kahya. Jumaa's followers denied the allegations.

— Iraq's defense minister, Ali Allawi, a Shiite appointed by U.S. officials two weeks ago, announced his three top generals, a Kurd, a Sunni and a Shiite, establishing representatives of the country's three main communities in the senior defense positions.

— A mortar shell landed in a garden near the Swedish Embassy in central Baghdad on Monday, causing an echoing explosion. No one was hurt, Iraqi police said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.