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Iraqi PM urges al-Qaida fighters facing his troops in western cities to give up their struggle

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    Gunmen gather in a street as they chant slogans against Iraq's Shiite-led government and demanding that the Iraqi army not try to enter the city in Fallujah, 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. Fierce clashes erupted Tuesday between Iraqi special forces and al-Qaida-linked militants outside the city of Fallujah, a flare-up in a days-long standoff in the Sunni-dominated western province of Anbar, Iraqi officials said. (AP Photo) (The Associated Press)

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    This Jan. 7, 2014 photo from aerial video provided by the Iraq Defence Ministry, but which the authenticity of cannot be independently verified by The Associated Press, shows an ammunition dump on fire after being hit by an airstrike, in Anbar Province, Iraq. (AP Photo/Iraq Defence Ministry) (The Associated Press)

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    Map locates recent violence in Iraq.; 3c x 6 inches; 146 mm x 152 mm; (The Associated Press)

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    Gunmen gather in a street as they chant slogans against Iraq's Shiite-led government and demanding that the Iraqi army not try to enter the city in Fallujah, 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. Fierce clashes erupted Tuesday between Iraqi special forces and al-Qaida-linked militants outside the city of Fallujah, a flare-up in a days-long standoff in the Sunni-dominated western province of Anbar, Iraqi officials said. (AP Photo) (The Associated Press)

Iraq's prime minister is urging all those who joined al-Qaida and now face a siege by his troops in the western Anbar province to give up their struggle, hinting of a possible pardon if the militants give up the fight.

Nouri al-Maliki says he is calling on those who were "lured to be part of the terrorism machine led by al-Qaida to return to reason."

If they do so, al-Maliki says his government will "open a new page to settle their cases."

Speaking in his weekly televised address Wednesday, al-Maliki vowed to continue the "sacred war" against al-Qaida's local branch — the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant — and finish the push to retake key Anbar cities of Fallujah and Ramadi, which the militants overrun last month.