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Sadr denounces U.S. withdrawal plan

Posted by smeddum on August 24, 2008

By Tina Susman and Caesar Ahmad
Los Angeles Times
Article Launched: 08/23/2008 01:31:30 AM PDT

BAGHDAD – The debate over a deal that would chart the future of U.S. troops in Iraq has reignited the rhetoric coming from Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who denounced the plan Friday for not setting a firm date for a U.S. withdrawal.
Sadr’s opposition to the draft of the agreement, which must be approved by Iraq’s parliament, is a reminder of his potential to create headaches for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
The draft would not have U.S. troops leave Iraq until 2011, if security conditions permit. It was to be circulated among Iraqi political leaders and presented to parliament when lawmakers reconvene Sept. 9 after their summer break.
Iraq’s government spokesman, Ali Dabbagh, reiterated Friday that any departure of U.S. troops was “subject to Iraqi national security” and that the dates are hypothetical. The final departure date “will be jointly set” by Iraq and the United States, he said, downplaying suggestions that the draft was the final deal.
At the weekly prayer service in Sadr’s Baghdad stronghold of Sadr City, chants of “No to the agreement!” rang out through loudspeakers positioned along the street. Worshipers responded with applause and repeated the chant as the service ended and people drifted away.
Sadr and his Mahdi Army militia have kept a low profile since fighting in spring led the Iraqi military to move into former militia strongholds. But while Sadr claims to have revamped his army into a cultural organization, his fiery

anti-U.S. message can rev up supporters and could hurt al-Maliki’s standing if Iraqis see him as kowtowing to American wishes.
At prayer services across the country, Sadrist preachers said any plan struck with the Americans was a blow to Iraq’s sovereignty. In Sadr City, listeners agreed.
“Everyone is talking about how it will really serve the interests of the Americans, not the Iraqis,” said Mohammed Fadim, whose grocery store overlooks the wide avenue where worshipers knelt side by side in prayer.

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