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Iraq's Sunnis and Sadr's movement make peace

Turkish Press

February 25, 2006

BAGHDAD - The movement of firebrand Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, alleged to have played a role in the anti-Sunni violence over the last few days, publicly made peace with political and religious Sunni leaders on Saturday.

Four sheikhs from the Sadr movement made a "pact of honor" with the conservative Sunni Muslim Scholars Association, calling for an end to attacks on places of worship, the shedding of blood and condemning any act leading to sedition.

The agreement was made in the particularly symbolic setting of Baghdad's premier Sunni mosque Abu Hanifa where the Shiite sheikhs prayed under the guidance of prominent Sunni imam Abdel Salam al-Qubaissi.

The meeting was broadcast on television and the religious leaders all "condemned the blowing up of the Shiite mausoleum of Samarra as much as the acts of sabotage against the houses of God as well as the assassinations and terrorization of Muslims".

The statement made reference to the key concerns of both communities with the violent aftermath to the attack on the Samarra mausoleum which saw more than 119 people die.

The sheikhs also condemned "those who excommunicate Muslims" a reference to the "takfireen" or Islamist extremists like Abu Musab al-Zarqawi who justify killing fellow Muslims by declaring them non-Muslims.

"It is not permitted to spill the Iraqi blood and to touch the houses of God," said the statement, adding that any mosques taken over by another community should be returned.

The meeting also announced the formation of a commission to "determine the reasons for the crisis with a view to solving it", while also calling for a timetable for the withdrawal of US troops.

On the political front, Salam al-Maliki, a cabinet minister allied to Sadr, and Iyad al-Sammaraie of the Sunni Islamic Party proclaimed their own reconciliation at a joint press conference, aired on Iraqi state television.

The Islamic Party belongs to the Sunni National Concord Front, which won 44 seats in parliament and has broken off talks on forming the next Iraqi govenrment since Wednesday's eruption of violence.

While overwhelmingly Shiite and representing thousands of poor and disaffected Shiites across the country, Sadr's movement has often made overtures to the Sunni Arabs over their mutual dislike of the US presence in the country.

Still, the roving bands of gun-toting, black clad youths attacking Sunnis and their places of worship on Wednesday were widely believed to have connections to the Mehdi Army, the armed wing of Sadr's movement.

In fact, Sadr's office in Najaf issued a statement Saturday calling on his followers to eschew their trademark black uniforms.

"The order has been given to members of the Mehdi Army to no longer wear their black uniform, so that it not exploited by those who commit crimes," said the statement.

The statement added that those attacking mosques were "criminal bands with no links to the Sadr movement."


:: Article nr. 20999 sent on 25-feb-2006 23:49 ECT

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Link: www.turkishpress.com/news.asp?id=109808



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