Thursday, October 6, 2022

Iraq's Sadr tells supporters to withdraw after violent clashes

Iraq's Sadr tells supporters to withdraw after violent clashes

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr told his followers to leave their protests in central Baghdad on Tuesday and apologised to the Iraqi people after nearly two days of violent clashes between rival Shi’ite Muslim groups.

"This is not a revolutionary (anymore) because it has lost its peaceful character," Sadr said in a televised address. "The spilling of Iraqi blood is forbidden," he added.

Earlier, Iraq's powerful Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr had announced that he is quitting politics, after a nearly year-long political stalemate that has left the country without a new government.

"I've decided not to meddle in political affairs. I therefore announce now my definitive retirement," said Sadr, a longtime player in the war-torn country's political scene, though he himself has never directly been in government.

He had made the announcement on Twitter, where he had added that "all the institutions" linked to his Sadrist movement will be closed, except the mausoleum of his father, assassinated in 1999, and other heritage facilities.

His latest statement had came two days after he said "all parties" including his own should give up government positions in order to help resolve the months-long political crisis. Since legislative elections in October last year, political deadlock has left the country without a new government, prime minister or president, due to disagreement between factions over forming a coalition.

His bloc had emerged from last year's election as the biggest, with 73 seats, but short of a majority. In June, his lawmakers had quit in a bid to break the logjam, which led to a rival Shiite bloc, the pro-Iran Coordination Framework, becoming the largest in the legislature. Since then, Sadr has engaged in other pressure tactics, including a mass prayer by tens of thousands of his followers on August 5.