A spokesman for Iraq's radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr says his
movement will not directly participate in provincial elections
scheduled for October 1.
Sadr's spokesman said Sunday that the movement instead will support "technocrats and independent politicians" in the polls.
He said the movement will not directly contest the elections because it does not want to be part of sectarian divisions.
18 provinces will choose governing councils in the elections, which
Washington says will help to stabilize the country by giving more power
to local leaders.
Unresolved debate over a draft election law
could postpone the vote. The law is expected to ban parties with
militias from contesting elections.
That would prohibit Sadr's movement from joining the political process. His Mahdi Army is the largest Shi'ite militia in Iraq.
movement says the cleric is reorganizing his militia into political and
armed wings. One wing is to focus on politics and social services for
Iraqis. The underground paramilitary wing, called "special companies,"
would reserve the right to attack U.S. soldiers.
government forces Sunday are preparing for an offensive against Shi'ite
militias in Amarah, the capital of the southern province of Maysan.
Minister Nouri al-Maliki has given gunmen there until June 18 to
surrender their weapons in exchange for cash. Maysan borders Iran and
is believed to be a major region for weapons smuggling.
Defense Ministry said today that Iraqi forces will take over security
operations from the U.S. military in the central province of Qadisiyah
Mainly Shi'ite Qadisiyah would be the 10th province to return to Iraqi control since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.