Sept. 11 - Anti-U.S. Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr calls for a halt to attacks against U.S. troops, in an effort to encourage their upcoming withdrawal. Travis Brecher reports.
Iraq's fiercely anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has called for an end to attacks against U.S. troops. This according to statements Monday by his spokesman Salah al-Ubaidi. Speaking with press in Baghdad, al-Ubaidi also warned that if U.S. forces do not depart on time, military operations would resume and would be "very severe". (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) SALA AL-UBAIDI, SPOKESMAN OF ANTI-AMERICAN SHIITE CLERIC MOQTADA AL-SADR, SAYING: "His eminence Sayyid Moqtada confirmed, in a separate statement yesterday, that he decided to halt military operations as a move and a message to all Iraqi parties, in order to accomplish the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. Such a move will give an opportunity for all parties to boost mutual confidence." American troops are scheduled to withdraw fully by December 31 and Sadr warned last month that American military trainers who stay beyond 2011 will be targets. While Sadr's Medhi Army is largely demobilised, U.S. officials say splinter groups still operate. Iraq's political leaders are currently negotiating with the U.S. on the sensitive issue of whether to keep military trainers beyond the withdrawal deadline - more than eight years after the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. While Iraqi security forces are seen as capable of tackling internal threats, many say they still need air and naval training. Travis Brecher, Reuters.