Maliki threatens to bar Sadr from election

Iraq's prime minister raised the stakes in his showdown with followers of Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, saying in an interview broadcast on Monday they would be barred from elections unless their army disbands.

Maliki threatens to bar Sadr from election
The comments followed an offensive by government forces into the cleric's Baghdad stronghold, the Shi'ite slum of Sadr City, in which heavy fighting returned to the capital after a week of relative calm when Sadr called his men off the streets.

"A decision was taken ... that they no longer have a right to participate in the political process or take part in the upcoming elections unless they end the Mehdi Army," Maliki said in an interview with CNN, according to a report posted on the U.S. television network's Web site.

Maliki's threat to drive Sadr's millions of supporters out of the political process heightens tensions in a conflict that has divided Iraq's Shi'ite majority and led to the worst fighting since extra U.S. troops arrived last year.

Sadr's followers are due this year to participate for the first time in elections for powerful provincial government posts that control the southern half of the country -- and are widely expected to oust less-popular Shi'ite parties that back Maliki.

Sadr's followers said the authorities had no power to disband the Mehdi Army.

"No one can intervene in the Mehdi Army; only those who established it and the religious leaders," the spokesman for Sadr, Salah al-Ubaidi, said.

Last Mod: 07 Nisan 2008, 17:42
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