BAGHDAD, April 26 (Xinhua) -- Iraq's radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr will hold a meeting on Thursday with Masoud Barzani, president of the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan, over a dispute between Baghdad and the region, a spokesman of the cleric said.
"Al-Sayyid (Sadr) will pay a visit to the region today in response to an invitation from the Kurdish regional president Masoud Barzani," Salah al-Obiedi, Sadr's spokesman told reporters in Baghdad.
"One of the meeting's goals is to solve the crisis between Baghdad and the region," Obiedi said, adding that the meeting will be held later in the capital of the Kurdish region Erbil, some 375 km north of Baghdad.
Sadr will arrive in Erbil from the holy Shiite Iranian city of Qom, as his loyalists say that he has been following his Shiite religious studies during the past years.
Sadr, in his 30s, gained popularity among younger Shiite Iraqis by his anti-U.S. rhetoric since the toppling of former president Saddam Hussein's government by the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. His Mahdi Army militiamen carried out attacks against U.S. troops, and they mainly were one of the major forces in the sectarian strife in Iraq that claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.
On Wednesday, Barzani called on the Shiite political leaders, including Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, to implement the previously signed power-sharing deal with their political opponents and not to rule the country as a dictator.
"What threatens the unity of Iraq is dictatorship and authoritarian rule," Barzani said in an exclusive interview with the Associated Press in his residence outside Erbil.
"If Iraq heads toward a democratic state, then there will be no trouble. But if Iraq heads toward a dictatorial state, then we will not be able to live with dictatorship," Barzani said.
Barzani threatened that the political crisis must be resolved by September when voters in the Kurdish region may consider a referendum for a state independent of Iraq.
The Kurds and the Sunni-backed Iraqia political bloc have frequently accused Maliki's Shiite-dominated government of killing the democratic process in the country by Baghdad's bids to gain more power. They also accused Maliki of evading his commitments in implementing the terms of power-sharing deal that he earlier signed with his rival political parties.
The deal, which also known as Erbil agreement, was brokered in November 2010 in Kurdistan region. It paved the way for forming Maliki's current fragile partnership government after the Iraqi political rivals ended their differences that lasted eight months following the parliamentary elections on March 7, 2010.
Special Report: Situation in Iraq