Thousands of followers of Shiite cleric protest security pact in Baghdad
www.chinaview.cn 2008-11-21 20:10:53   Print

    BAGHDAD, Nov. 21 (Xinhua) -- Thousands of followers of the Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr took to the streets in central Baghdad on Friday to protest a U.S.-Iraqi security deal under tight security measures.

    The Shiite throngs gathered since the morning at the Sa'adoon Street and took their way to the Firdus Square where they prayed a united prayers with Sunnis, an Interior Ministry source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.

Thousands of people pray during Friday prayers and a rally in al-Firdous square in Baghdad November 21, 2008. Iraqi forces shut streets in Baghdad and placed snipers on rooftops on Friday before a protest by followers of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr against a pact allowing U.S. troops to remain for three more years. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)
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    The demonstration which was carried out after Friday noon prayers at the square in the thoroughfare of Sa'adoun was called last week by Sadr who has strongly opposed any deal with the United States.

    Iraqi security forces cordoned off the area, blocking all the roads leading to the route of the demonstration, the source said.

    During the demonstration, Abdul Hadi al-Muhammadawi, a Shiite cleric read a statement on behalf of Sadr in front of the protesters, confirming the unity between Shiites and Sunnis in Iraq and the rally would be carried out peacefully to "express Iraqis' objection to the security agreement."

    "I reiterate my demands to the occupier to leave the darling Iraq without signing deals or establishing bases," Sadr said in the statement recited by Muhammadawi.

    Sadr vowed in the statement not to direct weapons but only against the "occupiers," hoping that the Iraqi security forces will not harm the "honest resistance."

    One of the protesters told Xinhua that the demonstration was one of the largest demonstrations in which protestors held up large banners denouncing the security pact.

Thousands of people gather in al-Firdous square to attend Friday prayers and a rally in Baghdad November 21, 2008. Iraqi forces shut streets in Baghdad and placed snipers on rooftops on Friday before a protest by followers of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr against a pact allowing U.S. troops to remain for three more years. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)
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    Protestors were chanting "No, no, to America. No, no for signing the deal," "Iraq won't be an American colony," and "the occupiers' withdrawal is the only way to implementing security in Iraq," the protestor said.

    The demonstration came a day after the Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said that it is still possible for the Iraqi parliament to pass the security pact that would allow U.S. troops to stay in Iraq for another three years.

    "I think chances still exist for the parliament to pass the agreement. They still have few decisive days," Zebari told reporters during a joint news conference with the visiting Italian counterpart, Franco Frattini.

    On Monday, Zebari and U.S. ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker initially signed the long-awaited Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA).

    According to the Iraqi law, the draft pact must be passed through the parliament and then the presidency council to be valid.

    During the signing ceremony, Zebari said that "The final word would be for the parliament, where there is positive atmosphere among the political leaders."

    On Sunday, the Iraqi cabinet almost unanimously approved the SOFA and another agreement of bilateral cooperation in various fields between the two countries.

    For months, the two countries were at odds over the agreement, which the United States needs as a legitimate support for the station of its troops beyond 2008 after the current UN mandate ends on Dec. 31.

Editor: Yao
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