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Anti-American cleric criticizes Iraq war
Updated: 2004-04-08 08:50

Muqtada al-Sadr, the firebrand anti-U.S. Shiite Muslim cleric, warned the United States on Wednesday that Iraq would become another Vietnam-like conflict if Washington did not transfer power to "honest Iraqis."

The cleric whose militia followers have battled coalition and Iraqi security forces across the country for days accused members of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council of being "collaborators" and said "they do not represent the Iraqi people."

"I call upon the American people to stand beside their brethren, the Iraqi people, who are suffering an injustice by your rulers and the occupying army, to help them in the transfer of power to honest Iraqis," al-Sadr said in a statement issued by his office in the southern city of Najaf.

"Otherwise, Iraq will be another Vietnam for America and the occupiers," the statement said.

The United States plans to transfer political sovereignty on June 30 to an Iraqi government, however its makeup is yet to be determined. Members of the Governing Council are expected to have prominent roles in it. National elections are scheduled to be held before Jan. 31.

In a separate statement issued earlier Wednesday, al-Sadr also called on Iraq's neighbor Kuwait to close U.S. military bases there so that the region is freed of "the great Satan."

"I call on our brothers of the Kuwaiti people to put pressure on their government to expel these terrorists bases," it said.

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