May 28, 2008

Moqtada al-Sadr called for a protest campaign

Iraqi anti-American Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has called for a protest campaign to force Baghdad to abandon a proposed deal that will extend the US troop presence in Iraq beyond 2008. Sadr said the proposed Status of Forces Agreement aimed at giving a legal basis to US troops after the December 31 expiry of a UN mandate defining their current status, was "against Iraqi national interests". His powerful movement planned to send delegations to neighbouring countries and to the West and to international bodies such as the United Nations, the Arab League and the European Ubnion to explain its position.

Sadr said the Iraqi government should consult the people before entering into any deal with Washington. US President George W. Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki signed a non-binding statement of principles in November for the negotiations, which began in March with the aim of concluding a pact by the end of July. There are currently about 150,000 US troops deployed in Iraq, which was invaded by US-led forces in March 2003.

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