News and opinions on situation in Iraq
05/04/04 ‘Public Uprising’ Shiites have put up fierce resistance to the occupation troops

(AFP)

Sadr’s Spokesman Qais Al-Khazali said Tuesday that fuming Shiites took to the streets spontaneously, denying that Sadr had sparked the uprising. “It is a public uprising,” Khazali told a press conference, warning that it would rage on until occupation troop withdraw from populated areas and Iraqi prisoners are released. “The uprising will continue and we will not negotiate unless they fulfill our demands, which are a withdrawal from populated areas and the release of prisoners,” Reuters news agency quoted him as saying. He also read a statement from Sadr denouncing U.S. President George W. Bush and the U.S.-led occupation. “This uprising shows that the Iraqi people are not satisfied with the occupation and they will not accept oppression,” the statement said. “I direct my words to the great evil, (U.S. President George) Bush, and I ask who is against democracy? Is it the one who is advocating peaceful resistance or the one who is bombing the nation and shedding blood,” he said. Asked if Sadr would resist if U.S. forces try to arrest him, Khazali replied: “God forbid if this happens, Al-Sayed will win martyrdom”. Khazali quoted Sadr as saying, “My fate will be (then) martyrdom”. He said the U.S. arrest warrant is “illegal” and Iraqi lawyers will refute it. Meanwhile, an aide to Sadr said Tuesday that British forces and Shiites in Basra struck a deal to avoid further deadly clashes. “An amicable agreement was concluded between the various parties in the presence of a representative of occupation forces, under which only the police will be responsible for security in the city,” Sheikh Salem Adel Saleh told AFP. ‘Solidarity’

Shiites’ spiritual leader Sistani, in the meantime, voiced his solidarity with Sadr, Aljazeera satellite channel quoted a close aide to the veteran Shiite leader as saying. Sistani said “the demonstrators' demands are legitimate” and “condemns acts waged by the occupation forces and pledges his support to the families of the victims”, he said. On Monday, Sistani called on the demonstrators to display restraint and calm. “The ayatollah has called on the (Shiite) demonstrators to remain calm, to keep a cool head and allow the problem to be resolved through negotiation,” an aide to Sistani said. Sistani has so far opposed any armed confrontation with the U.S.-led occupation, opting instead for dialogue to end the occupation and organize elections which will enable the Shiite majority, estimated at 55 to 65 percent of Iraq's 25 million people, to take power.

Distance
Meanwhile the Dawa, the oldest Shiite party, distanced itself from the Shiite rebellion, fearing it could run out of control and “jeopardize the gains made by the Shiites”, who for the first in nearly a century are represented at the highest level of government. A Dawa leader called for “respect of the law and public goods” and underscored “the gravity of escalating violence” ahead of the return of Iraqi sovereignty on June 30. But a senior official of the U.S.-appointed interim Governing Council on Tuesday accused Sadr of “harming Iraq” and called on him to avoid further bloodshed. “There is a radical force trying to harm the country, and this force has become known to all, it includes Moqtada Sadr and the group around him,” AFP quoted as saying Iyad Allawi, head of the council's security committee. “Moqtada himself should maintain calm and stability,” he told a press conference.

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