London, Bagdad, Asharq Al-Awsat- Salah al-Ubaydi, the official spokesman of Muqtada al-Sadr’s Al-Sadr Trend, has stated that the government has closed the doors on negotiating with the Trend in order to resolve the crisis in Basra peacefully, while two leading emembers in Islamic Al-Dawah Party, led by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, have asserted that the negotiations with the Trend were continuing.
Al-Ubaydi told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the attempts at negotiations with the government were made by the Trend and from parties outside it but the government closed the door to any negotiations.” He added that Al-Sadr issued a new statement in which he said that “the statements of (US President George Bush) about the Basra crisis give us the legal justification for turning from the role of mediation in the crisis to the role of defending the people’s rights and protecting the innocent citizens.” Bush had praised the security operations against the gunmen in Basra which Al-Maliki is commanding personally.
While Al-Ubaydi said that the statement attributed to Al-Sadr the day before yesterday in which he called on his supporters to lay down their weapons “was false and fabricated”, a source close to Al-Maliki asserted to Asharq Al-Awsat the validity of Al-Sadr’s statement in which he called on his followers to resort to peaceful solutions. The source said in a telephone call from Baghdad that “the Friday imams and preachers from Al-Sadr Trend would have denied it had the statement not been true and they would have confronted it publicly.” It added that the Iraqi Government does not accept Al-Ubaydi’s denial unless an official denial is issued, noting that Al-Sadr ordered his followers to present olive branches and copies of the Holy Koran to the security forces so as to avoid any armed clashes.
On his part, Walid al-Hilli, a leading figure in Al-Dawah Party, asserted that the government has not closed the doors to dialogue and the evidence is the additional period which Al-Maliki has given to the armed groups to lay down their weapons. He reiterated that the government is not targeting Al-Sadr Trend and pointed out “that these groups would not have resorted to arms if they were obeying the Trend because Muqtada froze the battle. The problem is with the gangs which want to barter about Iraq’s economy.”
Haydar al-Abadi, another prominent “Al-Dawah” leader, commented on the scenarios about Al-Maliki’s future should this security plan fails and said the possibility of failure “is out of the question” adding that” the prime minister knows that it is a difficult step and will cost too much but it is an important one. Protecting his position is not among the prime minister’s priorities, however moral and national responsibilities are.” He added that “the responsibility now is the consolidation of security and this requires historic leaders. Leaders who are afraid and hesitant cannot continue.”