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Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr dismisses UN `interference` in Iraq

IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency

Baghdad, Feb 23, IRNA -- An influential Shiite Iraqi cleric, Moqtada 
al-Sadr, has dismissed UN backing of the US position that it would not
be feasible to hold elections before the June 30 date that Washington 
has set for handing back power to the Iraqis. 
In an interview with IRNA here, the young cleric did not mince his
words to say, "The United Nations has no right to interfere in the 
internal affairs of Iraq. 
"The United Nations has connived with the occupation of Iraq," 
Sadr said, and proposed that two key Islamic bodies supervise the 
process of elections in the war-torn country. 
"The issue of the elections must be under the supervision of the 
Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the Arab League since
these two formations are closer to Iraq than the United Nations," he 
said. 
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan vetoed any elections prior to 
June 30 after sending a fact-finding mission to Iraq this month to 
assess the possibility of holding elections. 
The decision crushed Shiite hopes for elections in Iraq before the
end of the occupation, in a victory for US officials who have revealed
their plans to hand over sovereignty to an unelected government. 
Asked to comment on the decision, al-Sadr said, "I believed from 
the beginning that the occupiers did not want democracy and freedom to
be dominant in Iraq." 
The cleric, known for his trademark fiery statements, was also 
asked about his reaction to the UN position, in which he ruled out 
resorting to any violent means. 
"There is no reaction for the time being, but if there is any, it 
will be through peaceful activities, such as demonstrations and 
sit-ins," he said. 
Moqtada al-Sadr stressed that he opposed any violent measures 
since `these types of actions harm Islam and Shiism`. 
The cleric denounced `bandits, saboteurs and individuals who 
participate in terrorist operations in Iraq`. 
"Those who commit such acts are the enemies of truth -- wherever 
or whenever they are -- and they do not want security and stability to
be reestablished in Iraq." 
BH/AH/210 
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