Sadr tells followers to stop attacks on Spanish troops
Radical Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr has called on his followers to stop attacks on Spanish troops of the U.S.-led coalition after Madrid announced it would withdraw its contingent from Iraq as soon as possible, a Sadr spokesman said Monday.
"We call on them to ensure the security of Spanish troops until their departure as long as these forces do not perpetrate aggressions against the Iraqi people," Qais al-Khazaali was quoted by Mideast Online.
"Other countries which assign troops to the coalition in Iraq are urged to follow the example of Spain and to withdraw their forces to save the lives of their soldiers," he added.
Khazaali said "Sadr has reversed his opposition to the deployment of U.N. peacekeepers in Iraq as long as certain conditions are met."
"We favour the dispatch of such a force on condition that it be made up of Muslim countries or countries which did not join the occupation of Iraq, such as Russia, France or Germany," he added.
He also said the U.N. force must entrust law and order duties to Iraqi security forces.
Sadr, who is wanted in connection with the murder of a rival pro-U.S. cleric, had previously rejected any role for the U.N. in Iraq, arguing that the world body was taking its orders from the U.S.-led occupation forces.
In an interview with Bulgarian television broadcast Sunday, Khazaali demanded U.N. troops replace the U.S.-led coalition forces.
He said it was "in the interest of the whole world to send peacekeeping forces under the UN flag" to Iraq.
Clashes in Kufa
Khazaali said Sadr militiamen had clashed with U.S. troops in the Iraqi shrine town of Kufa Monday.
"Clashes took place in Kufa, on the east bank of the river (Euphrates), and we seized a Humvee that was abandoned there," Khazaali told a press conference.
A spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition said he had no immediate reports of a clash in the central town, a radical stronghold where Sadr normally delivers the sermon at the main weekly prayers.
(Courtesy of middle-east-online.com)