"The mission of US forces is to kill or capture Muqtada al-Sadr," Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, commander of US ground forces in Iraq, told reporters in the United States in a video link from Baghdad on Monday. 

US-led occupation authorities in Iraq have said an arrest warrant for al-Sadr was issued several months ago by an Iraqi judge in connection with the murder of a cleric in the city of Najaf last year. 

Some Iraqi religious and tribal leaders have been trying to mediate a deal to end al-Sadr's uprising, possibly by getting the US-led occupation to agree not to arrest al-Sadr in return for him renouncing violence. 

General John Abizaid, head of US Central Command, told the news conference there was a possibility the uprising could be ended through a "uniquely Iraqi solution". 

Falluja truce

Meanwhile, two delegations of mediators brokering a truce between US forces and resistance fighters returned from the Iraqi town of Falluja on Monday, hours before a temporary truce was due to expire, a US officer said. 

A delegation ended about two hours of mediation talks late on Monday, after a mid-morning visit by the first team into the city, Captain Kurt Barclay told AFP. 

Sergeant Bernard Grenier said the visits, sanctioned by the US-led occupation, were to help with mediation. 

US marines patrol in the industrial
sector south-east of Falluja

He said the second team also carried medical supplies for
beleaguered residents. M
eanwhile, the ceasefire, has been extended until Monday night, with the agreement of both US forces and resistance fighters, a mediator said earlier.

"The ceasefire was extended by 24 hours last night, so it is
supposed to last until Monday evening," Alaa Makki, a senior member of the Iraqi Islamic party, which was leading the mediation effort, told reporters.

Citing hospital sources in the town, Makki said more than 600
Iraqis had been killed and about 1500 others wounded in the week-long US offensive against resistance fighters in Falluja.

There is only one unsettled issue relating to who will take responsibility for security in the city after the withdrawal of the US forces.

Reporting on negotiations, Aljazeera correspondent Abd Al-Adhim Muhammad said: "Residents insist that the Iraqi police and members of the local civil defence in addition to a number of trustworthy people should be the ones to take on the responsibility of their town's security."  

"The situation is somewhat calm but the real problem is the presence of the US snipers in the industrial zones of Askari, Jolan, Shuhada, and Sinai," said the correspondent.

"There are scores of US snipers on the rooftops of high buildings," he added.