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Iraqi Shia cleric calls on officials to reject US security pact

Baghdad, Oct 18, IRNA - Iraqi senior Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in a message on Saturday called on Iraqi officials to reject signing the "shameful" security agreement with the US."

The message was read out by Sadr's aide Sheik Abdul-Hadi al-Mohammadawi for tens of thousands of Iraqi people who staged a rally in Baghdad against the US.

The demonstrators marched from the main Shia district of Sadr City to central Mustansiriyah Square in eastern Baghdad. Security was tight during the rally.

The protestors mostly young men chanted anti-US slogans including, "Leave here occupier," and "Iraq is free" as well as "No, No to the agreement" and "Yes to Iraq." "Today the people of Iraq acted based on its responsibility to announce its opposition to the agreement," Sadr said stressing that he has personally condemned and rejected the deal.

Sadr said that the demonstration in fact showed the Iraqis' rejection of the US security deal with Iraq.

The US and Iraqi leaders face a December 31 deadline to reach agreement on the deal, which would replace an expiring UN mandate authorizing the US-led forces in Iraq.

Iraq's prominent cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has said any accord must have national consensus.

"Now that the Iraqi government has abandoned its duty and referred it to the parliament and now that the Iraqi people have shown by this rally their opposition to that deal, It is now the turn of the Iraqi parliament," the senior cleric said.

He warned the Iraqi parliament to avoid ratifying the US security agreement, comparing it with the Camp David pact.

"Such agreements would be a shame for the regional states," stressed the cleric.

"If they tell you that the agreement ends the presence of the occupation, let me tell you that the occupier will retain its bases.

And whoever tells you that it gives us sovereignty is a liar," Sadr said.

"I am confident that you brothers in parliament will champion the will of the people over that of the occupier ... Do not betray the people," said the prominent cleric.

The Iraqi parliament must ratify the deal.

... Payvand News - 10/18/08 ... --

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