Morning report: August 11, 2004

Allawi in Najaf: militants must lay down arms. Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi made a surprise visit to Najaf and urged rebel militiamen to "leave the holy sites quickly, lay down their weapons and return to the rule of order and law." Allawi sait he believes common criminals and foreign insurgents are behind the violence in Najaf - and not Muqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army, as the US Government has stated. (Both Baghdad and Washington may be correct - see below.)

Iranian diplomat reported kidnapped in Iraq. Details are still sketchy, but reports indicate that a militant group has kidnapped an Iranian diplomat in Iraq. The diplomat, Faridoun Jihani, would be the second foreign diplomat from the Muslim world taken hostage in Iraq in recent weeks, following Egypt's Mohammed Mamdouh Helmi Qutb who was abducted on July 23 and released on July 26.

Debka on kidnapping, Najaf. In recent bulletins, Debka notes that the "Islamic Army of Iraq" which kidnapped Jihani is the same group that killed two hostages from Pakistan last month. The Israeli-based site also suggests that the IRI regime encouraged al-Sadr's rebellion, and that Allawi may be relying on "local methods of deterrence" to combat Tehran's meddling. Another bulletin reports that Sadr has refused Allawi's call to stand down.