Monday, August 20, 2007


Al-Sadr pledges to work with the U.N.

(AFP) - Radical Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has pledged to commit his forces and followers to help the United Nations were it to replace American and British troops in Iraq, in an interview published on Monday. Speaking to The Independent newspaper from his movement's headquarters in Kufa, south of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, Sadr said that he would "support the UN if it comes and replaces the American and British occupiers."
"If the UN comes here to truly help the Iraqi people, they will receive our help in their work. I would ask my followers to support the UN as long as it is here to help us rebuild our country. "They must not just be another face of the American occupation." Sadr, who enjoys popular grassroot support among Iraqi Shiites, is a powerful political player in Iraq's embattled government led by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
His anti-American views have frequently seen his Mahdi Army militia clashing with US soldiers since the US-led March 2003 invasion to topple Saddam Hussein. Sadr told the daily that the British army's downscaling in Iraq was a sign that it had given up and was defeated, saying: "They are retreating because of the resistance they have faced. Without that, they would have stayed for much longer, there is no doubt."
He also warned that Britain's involvement in Iraq had endangered its citizens at home: "The British put their soldiers in a dangerous position by sending them here but they also put the people in their own country in danger. They have made enemies among all Muslims and they now face attacks at home because of their war. That was their mistake." Britain has about 5,500 troops in Iraq, most of whom are based in the southern city of Basra. Sadr said that Basra would become a safer place after the British military left.
On domestic Iraqi politics, Sadr said that Maliki's days as Iraqi leader were coming to a close: "Al-Maliki's government will not survive because he has proven that he will not work with important elements of the Iraqi people ... The prime minister is a tool for the Americans and people see that clearly. It will probably be the Americans who decide to change him when they realise he has failed. We don't have a democracy here, we have a foreign occupation." Sadr also denied American claims that he was being armed by Iran.

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