Iraqi shiite cleric urges government to reject US pact

Other News Materials 31 July 2008 23:56 (UTC +04:00)

Iraqi radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has urged the Iraqi government not to sign a deal that would allow the US troops to remain in Iraq, the BBC reported Thursday. ( dpa )

Al-Sadr said in a statement that he would support Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's government "publicly and politically" if it does not sign the accord.

The US and Iraq have been negotiating a security pact, also called Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), which would lay down the legal basis for a continued US military presence in Iraq after a UN mandate expires in December.

Several Iraqi politicians and lawmakers are against the mandate saying it will violate the country's sovereignty.

The Shiite leader called on "men of faith and clerics to express their opinion against the signature of any agreement between the government and the occupier legally, whether a friendly accord or one concerning another subject."

Al-Sadr, who strongly opposes the US presence in Iraq, called on Iraqis to unite and stand up against this accord by all means possible.

Hundreds of people loyal to the influential leader had previously demonstrated against the pact, after al-Sadr urged them to.

Al-Mahdi army militias loyal to al-Sadr were constantly in clashes with US troops in the country until a truce was signed last May.

Meanwhile, the US military said it arrested 12 suspects throughout Wednesday and Thursday in Baghdad and some northern cities.

The statement said they were arrested during raids and search operations. The detainees are suspected to be members of al-Qaeda terrorist network.

Earlier on Thursday, a suicide bomb exploded near an Iraqi police department killing three policemen and injuring four in the northern city of Mosul, according to security sources.

The blast hit the al-Shaheed police department in the al-Qayara district, south of Mosul, the Voices of Iraq news agency reported.