Al-Sadr Decries US Pact at Rally

Tens of thousands gather in protest
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 18, 2008 10:51 AM CDT
Followers of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr burn effigies of President Bush, and Condoleezza Rice, during a rally in Baghdad, Iraq, Oct. 18, 2008, to protest a draft U.S.-Iraqi security agreement.   (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)
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(Newser) – Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr today called on Iraq's parliament to reject a US-Iraqi security pact as tens of thousands of his followers rallied in Baghdad against the deal. "The Iraqi government has abandoned its duty before God and its people," Sadr said through a spokesman. "I am with every Sunni, Shiite or Christian who is opposed to the agreement ... and I reject, condemn and renounce the presence of occupying forces."

Al-Sadr's message was read before a huge audience of mostly young men waving Iraqi and green Shiite flags, and chanting slogans including "no, no to the agreement" and "yes to Iraq." US and Iraqi leaders face a Dec. 31 deadline to replace the expiring UN mandate authorizing US troop presence. Though the agreement would force troops to leave by 2011, Al-Sadr isn't satisfied. "The occupier will retain its bases," he said. "Whoever tells you that it gives us sovereignty is a liar."