Iraqi Shiite cleric
Muqtada al-Sadr urged Iraqis on Saturday to resist the US presence in their country peacefully and without resorting to weapons.
"We are still fighters. Resistance will not stop because our aim is to force the occupiers out," al-Sadr told thousands of his supporters in the Najaf, 160 kilometres south of Baghdad, DPA reported.
"Not everyone who takes up arms is a fighter, we want cultural resistance. Rejecting the occupier with our hearts is also resistance," he said.
Al-Sadr was giving his first speech since returning to Iraq on Wednesday after more than three years in Iran. Sadrists say he went to Iran in pursue religious studies in the holy city of Qom.
The Shiite leader called on his followers to give Iraq's new government a chance and said he "will support the government if it acts to serve the people, achieve security and services."
Al-Sadr and his followers, who have 40 seats in parliament, have given their support to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki after initially oppositing him serving another term in office.
He has been a thorn in the side of US forces since the US-led 2003 invasion. In June 2003, he established a military wing, the Mahdi Army, which was involved in major clashes with US forces in Najaf.
Al-Sadr is able to mobilize tens of thousands in support of his political aims. although the Mahdi Army has observed a ceasefire since August 2007, which is widely attributed to be behind the decrease of sectarian tensions and violence in Iraq.