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Iraq Sunni group blasts defense minister

BAGHDAD, Nov. 5 (UPI) -- An Iraqi Sunni group demanded Saturday the dismissal of Defense Minister Sadoun al-Dulaimi for threatening to demolish civilian houses that harbor terrorists.

In a statement, the Iraqi Council for National Dialogue called on the government of Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari to sack Dulaimi after he vowed the Iraqi forces will not hesitate to "demolish their houses on their women's and children's heads, as we did before."

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The defense minister made his threats in a local television interview last week, referring to air strikes on four houses last month in the western Anbar province that killed 40 people.

The Sunni group said Dulaimi was "thirsty for Iraqi blood," insisting the joint U.S.-Iraqi military operations in western Iraq were aimed at shedding "more blood of innocent civilians, women and children."

The council said the minister's comment was a confession of committing war crimes and called for his trial as a war criminal in the International Court of Justice.

It added there were more than 200,000 refugees stranded in the Anbar desert with no food and water, and warned of a "humanitarian disaster" as disease spreads among the "homeless people" in the area.

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Dulaimi, meanwhile, told reporters in Baghdad Saturday the government insists on "cleaning up Iraq from the satanic terrorists" and vowed that "terrorism in Iraq will end soon."

He made his remarks as 3,500 U.S. and Iraqi troops launched a new offensive, dubbed Operation Steel Curtain, in western Iraq near the Syrian border.

The U.S. military said the operation was to "restore security along the Iraqi-Syrian border and destroy the al-Qaida in Iraq terrorist network operating throughout Husayba," a vast desert area.

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