Iraqi Shiite MPs in Iran for talks with Sadr

By Xinhua,

Baghdad : A delegation from Shiite lawmakers in the Iraqi parliament headed to Iran for talks with anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to end ongoing clashes between Sadr followers and U.S-backed Iraqi troops, a Sadr spokesman said on Thursday.

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Sheikh Salah al-Obeidi, spokesman for Sadr in the central holy city of Najaf, said five lawmakers led by deputy parliament speaker Sheikh Khalid al-Attiya traveled to Iran on Wednesday.

“A delegation from the Unified Iraqi Alliance (UIA) in the parliament headed by Sheikh Khalid al-Attiya, went to Iran to meet Saiyyd Muqtada al-Sadr there and other leaders of the Sadr movement who are in Iran, to negotiate with him a way out of the crisis,” Obeidi said.

Obeidi’s remarks is the first acknowledgment by Sadr followers that their leader is in Iran.

At least 1,073 people were killed in Iraq last month by the nearly everyday clashes between Mahdi Army militiamen, loyal to Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and U.S.-backed Iraqi security forces.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki led a crackdown on Sadr followers late March in several Iraqi cities, including Baghdad and Basra and warned that Sadr must disband his Mahdi Army militiaor will be barred from the provincial elections slated for October.

Many Sadrists view Maliki’s crackdown as a means to weaken his Shiite rivals and to facilitate the political benchmarks set by the U.S. administration before the provincial elections.