Iraqi government seeks dialogue with al-Sadr to stem violence

April 21st, 2008 - 3:01 am ICT by admin  

Baghdad, April 21 (DPA) The Iraqi government is not targeting followers of radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and is seeking to open a dialogue with his political group, a cabinet spokesman said Sunday. The statement comes a day after al-Sadr threatened to launch an “open war until liberation” unless the government halted its offensive against his followers.

“There is a need for opening a dialogue as the al-Sadr Bloc is an effective part in parliament and government,” government spokesman Ali al-Dabagh told reporters.

“The Iraqi government is not in confrontation with any political group. But it is incumbent on the government under the constitution to protect its citizens against those who raised arms against it,” al-Dabagh said.

The statement is the first official reaction to al-Sadr’s warning Saturday of full-blown war against Iraqi and US troops.

Iraqi forces backed by the US air force took control of al-Sadr’s last bastion in the southern city of Basra.

But in Baghdad’s Sadr City controlled by al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia, US troops killed seven fighters and seized weapons in raids Saturday, according to a US military statement.

In the south of Iraq, normality returned Sunday to the city of Nasiriyah, a day after 30 people were killed in fighting between police and Shiite militiamen.

At least 25 militiamen and five security personnel were killed and 25 injured in the fighting in Shioukh near Nasiriyah, 350 km south of Baghdad.

Further south in Basra, Iraqi troops continued their campaign to assert their control across the oil-rich province.

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