Iraq: Radical cleric to be banned from politics, says PM

Baghdad, 7 April (AKI) - Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki has warned that the radical Muslim cleric, Moqtada al-Sadr, will be banned from participating in the country's political process unless he disbands his militias.

In an interview with the American CNN network, al-Maliki said he would pursue members of al-Sadr's Mahdi Army across the country, including those in Sadr City.

"We will not stop until we have full control of these areas," he said.

"The operation has started and will not stop until a decisive victory is achieved ... a victory that will not allow these people to attack the Green Zone or other areas."

The Green Zone of Baghdad is where the Iraqi government and several embassies are located, has been the target of intense attacks.

Three US soldiers were killed on Monday and over 30 were injured by rocket attacks in the Green Zone and another military base in the capital, the US military has said.

Al-Maliki recognised that Iraqi forces were still far from winning control of the militias.

"Confronting the militias still needs more effort. Our readiness is not at full level yet," the prime minister told CNN.

"Many people expected to see a decisive victory of the Iraqi security forces ... But this did not happen. Today again Iraqi forces went into Sadr City and are pursuing the criminal militiamen who are on the run."

Clashes between Shia militants loyal to al-Sadr and Iraqi security forces left over 210 people killed and 600 injured according to government sources, while militants claimed at least 600 people were killed and over 2,000 injured.

During the clashes, al-Sadr called on the government to stop its raids against his militias, six days after Iraqi forces began an operation against Shia militias in the southern city of Basra.

The fighting between Shia militias and Iraqi security forces ended only after al-Sadr ordered his militiamen off the streets on Sunday 31 March.


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