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Iraq extends cash-for-guns buyback

BAGHDAD, Oct. 18 (UPI) -- The Iraqi government's experiment to pay citizens cash for turning in firearms was so successful, it was extended two more days, the New York Times reported.

The offer was made in Baghdad with hopes Shiite rebel leader Moqtada al Sadr would begin disarming his Mehdi militia.

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The Iraqi military said Sadr's militia had turned in about 700 rocket-propelled grenades and about 400 mortar shells, along with hundreds of lighter weapons, and that the Iraqi government had paid about $1.2 million in return.

Prime Minister Ayad Allawi said he was "thrilled" by the progress and ordered the campaign extended until Tuesday, and his aides said they were discussing widening the program to include other cities.

Sadr is thought to have hundreds of loyalists across southern Iraq, in cities like Amara, Basra and Diwaniya. Iraqi officials have long worried that unless those groups also turn in their heavy weapons, they pose a serious threat to the nationwide elections scheduled for January, the newspaper said.

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