RealNews

Steadfast in Defiance, Cleric Gains Stature With Iraq Masses

Militant cleric Muqtada Sadr’s refusal Tuesday to meet with a delegation of Iraqi religious and political leaders is the clearest indicator yet that recent fighting in Najaf has strengthened the anti-American leader, some analysts say. The snub, which followed last week’s breakdown of talks with envoys of interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, made it clear that Sadr expected any resolution to the two-week confrontation to proceed on his terms and timetable. The message was reinforced by the 1,000 militiamen who greeted the delegation with raised fists and shouts of “Long live Muqtada!” Although Allawi’s government had decided to resume military operations to oust Sadr’s forces from the sacred Imam Ali shrine they have occupied, he opted to let a new round of talks proceed. Full Story

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