Accessibility links

Iraq's al-Sadr Urges Calm From Supporters


Anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, center, is surrounded by bodyguards in the Shiite city of Najaf, Iraq, 06 Jan 2011

Anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, center, is surrounded by bodyguards in the Shiite city of Najaf, Iraq, 06 Jan 2011

Anti-American Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has urged his supporters to "exercise discipline" while celebrating his return to Iraq after a nearly three-year absence.

The cleric issued the statement Thursday, a day after hundreds of his followers screamed and chanted support as he visited a holy shrine in the Iraqi city of Najaf. He said the lack of discipline by some during his return had, as he put it, "bothered and harmed" him.

The Associated Press quotes officials from his office as saying he felt the crowd's chants of Muqtada is our only leader" might be viewed as "provocative."

The radical figure returned to his family home in Iraq on Wednesday. Al-Sadr had been living in Iran, and it is unclear how long he plans to stay in Iraq.

The cleric emerged as an influential U.S. foe after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, leading two uprisings carried out by his Mehdi Army against American forces.

His political movement's bloc worked out a deal to be part of the new Iraqi government after last year's disputed elections, and its support helped Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki secure a second term.

The Sadrists won 39 out of 325 seats in parliament in the March, 2010 elections.

Also Thursday, Iran's acting foreign minister held talks in Najaf with Iraq's Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in an effort to boost ties between the Shi'ite-majority neighbors.

Related video report by Robert Raffaele:

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.

NEW: Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.
XS
SM
MD
LG