Thousands of Sadrists protest US-Iraq agreement in Baghdad

Other News Materials 21 November 2008 18:11 (UTC +04:00)

Thousands of demonstrators loyal to anti-US Shiite cleric Sayyid Muqtada al-Sadr staged protests on Friday against the controversial US-Iraq security pact, a day after a heated debate on the agreement in the Iraqi parliament, reported dpa.

Holding flags and chanting slogans, protestors flooded Firdous Square in central Baghdad amid tight security, in opposition to the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), which paves the way for continued US and coalition presence in Iraq beyond the end of the UN mandate at the end of 2008.

Al-Sadr has repeatedly asked his followers to stage protests against the pact, and has pledged his support for the Iraqi government if it does not accept the agreement.

"The Sadrist bloc in the parliament has many reservations on the pact. One of them is that it is a US choice and the Iraqi government was forced to discuss it and only make some amendments," said Sadrist bloc member Aqeel Abdel Hussein.

On Thursday evening an Iraqi parliamentary session was the scene of heated debate Thursday as lawmakers clashed over a controversial security pact with the US. No vote was taken on the agreement.

The agreement, which mandates a withdrawal of US troops by 2011, needs parliamentary approval before it can be signed into law by the US and Iraqi presidents.