Influential Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqatada al-Sadr left for Qatar to discuss regional developments, as well as the situation in Bahrain, one of al-Sadr's close aides said Saturday.
Al-Sadr "went to Qatar after an invitation from the Emir Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani to discuss developments in the Arab world, bilateral relations and developments in Bahrain," Hazem al-Aragy told the German Press Agency dpa.
Al-Aragy denied reports that al-Sadr will head to Bahrain following his visit to Qatar.
Pro-democracy protests, led primarily by Shiites, began in February in Bahrain. The unrest stirred concern amongst other Sunni- led Gulf countries, most importantly Saudi Arabia, that Shiite-led Iran was meddling in Bahrain's affairs.
Over 60 per cent of the million-strong population is Muslim - and two-thirds of these are Shiites - while the ruling family are Sunnis. Many Shiites feel discriminated against.
Al-Sadr, who is based in Iran, has a strong following in Iraq and is able to mobilize tens of thousands in support of his political aims.