Al-Sadr wanted concession after concession, including money for the families of those killed by Americans. Instead of granting this, which would amount to an admission that the entire Iraqi operation was illegal and unwarranted, the Iraqis and the US government have allowed the talks to break down. From AP:
NAJAF, Iraq – Truce talks between Shiite militants and Iraqi officials broke down Saturday, raising the prospect of a return to the fierce fighting between militiamen and U.S-Iraqi forces that has shaken the holy city of Najaf for more than a week.
The government’s chief negotiator, Mouwaffaq al-Rubaie, said talks were making no progress and that he was leaving Najaf. Aides to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr blamed the United States and the Iraqi government on the breakdown….
Al-Sadr had demanded a U.S. withdrawal from Najaf, the freeing of all Mahdi Army fighters in detention and amnesty for all the fighters, in exchange for disarming his followers and pulling them out of the revered Imam Ali shrine and Najaf’s old city, where they have taken refuge, aides said.
However, al-Sadr himself did not participate in the talks and al-Rubaie said he felt some “elements” were hindering his efforts to hold a face-to-face meeting with the firebrand cleric.
Al-Rubaie said he had proposed that al-Sadr’s militia be disbanded and become a political movement.
“We have been talking and discussing these matters for three days but reached no positive conclusion,” he said. “After three days, my government thought there was no use in continuing.”
Al-Sadr aide Sheik Ali Smeisim said both sides had agreed on all points, but interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi suddenly told the government officials to break off talks and return to Baghdad.
“It is a conspiracy to commit a big massacre,” he told the pan-Arab Al-Jazeera television station.
Ahmed al-Shaibany, another al-Sadr spokesman, blamed the talks’ failure on the Americans, who also were not participating.
“There are particular points and demands we had that we specifically wanted the Americans to sign on, but they refused,” he said.
Among those demands, he said, was U.S. compensation for the families of those killed in confrontations with the Americans.