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Radical Shiite Calls for Iraqi Restraint | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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London, AP- A radical Shiite cleric who led two major uprisings against American forces in Iraq last year called for his countrymen to exercise self-restraint and avoid violence, according to a BBC interview to be broadcast Monday.

Muqtada al-Sadr condemned the U.S. military presence in Iraq, and in the interview kept open the possibility of returning to armed resistance, but said Iraqis should not be provoked into violence,

&#34(I believe) America does not want confrontation. So I call upon other parties like the Iraqi army, and the Iraqi police, to exercise self-restraint with Iraqi people and not be provoked into confrontation with them or the occupying forces as this isn”t in the interest of Iraq,&#34 al-Sadr said, according to a transcript of the interview released by the BBC”s Newsnight program.

&#34I also call on the Iraqi people to exercise restraint and not get enmeshed in the plans of the West or plans of the occupation that wants to provoke them,&#34 he said. The BBC said the interview was recorded in Iraq within the past two weeks, but was not more specific.

Al-Sadr”s militia battled U.S. forces in the holy city of Najaf and the Shiite district of Baghdad, Sadr City last year, before cease-fire agreements ended the fighting.

In the deadly street battles, his militia — the Imam al-Mahdi Army — stood and fought U.S. forces across a string of towns across central and southern Iraq.

Al-Sadr has called for an immediate withdrawal of U.S. and other coalition forces from Iraq and has opposed elections while Iraq is under &#34occupation.&#34

&#34The occupation in itself is a problem,&#34 al-Sadr said in the interview. &#34Iraq not being independent is the problem. And the other problems stem from that — from sectarianism to civil war, the entire American presence causes this.&#34

He said he would refuse any political role while the &#34occupation&#34 was present and would not take part in the writing of the new Iraqi constitution.

According to Newsnight, al-Sadr, who still has his own militia, the Mahdi army, made clear that he was keeping open the possibility of a return to armed resistance.

&#34Resistance is legitimate at all levels,&#34 he was quoted as saying, &#34be it religious, intellectual, and so on.&#34

His movement has its roots in the 1990s when his father Ayatollah Mohammed Sadiq al-Sadr, a powerful Shiite cleric, defied Saddam Hussein. The senior al-Sadr was killed by suspected agents of Saddam in 1999.