Iraqi anti-U.S. cleric says not to revive main anti-U.S. militia
Anti-U.S. Shiite cleric Moqtada al- Sadr withdrew his threat to resume activities of Mahdi Army militia against the U.S. troops if they stay in the country after the end of 2011.
In a statement obtained by Xinhua on Monday, Sadr attributed his decision to "criminal acts" committed by members of his Mahdi Army militia, but said that an elite unit of his militia will remain active if U.S. troops stay in Iraq after the 2011 deadline.
"I say the military action will be limited on the Promised Day Brigade in case the occupation would not withdraw from Iraq, and the freeze of Mahdi Army will continue even if the occupation would not leave," said the statement posted on Sadr's website.
In April, Sadr threatened to resume activities of Mahdi Army militia against the U.S. troops if they stay in the country after the end of 2011.
Moqtada al-Sadr repeatedly renewed his order to his Mahdi Army militia, to freeze activities against U.S. troops after clashes with Iraqi security forces and other rival Shiite militia in 2007.
Sadr's statement came as the new U.S. defense chief Leon Panetta arrived in Baghdad on Sunday. Panetta is expected to meet with U.S. military commanders in Iraq and will hold talks with top Iraqi officials about whether some U.S. troops will remain in Iraq after the deadline of the end of 2011.
Baghdad and Washington are in debate whether the U.S. troops need to extend the presence of its troops in Iraq beyond the 2011 deadline.
In mid-2010, U.S. troops in Iraq had been reduced to below 50, 000 soldiers. Washington said that the remaining U.S. troops in Iraq are conducting support and training missions.
U.S. military forces are to pull out completely from Iraq by the end of 2011, according to the security pact named Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), which was signed late in 2008 between Baghdad and Washington.