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Radical Cleric Stands Firm, Says He Won't Disband Army
(Edward Wong, New York Times, April 16, 2004)
Moktada al-Sadr, the spiritual leader of the Mahdi militia, a Shiite insurrection group, said in Kufa this morning that he was not willing to disband his army under any circumstances, further reinforcing the stalemate between him and the American forces. . . . "All I want is to end the occupation and to hand over sovereignty to the Iraqis," Mr. Sadr said. "There can be no sovereignty with the occupation forces." . . . Appearing for the first time in public in two weeks, the cleric, who is on the United States wanted list, adopted a harsh anti-American tone, and offered no suggestion that he was ready to compromise with the Americans. . . . United States military commanders have insisted that they must reach some type of settlement regarding Mr. Sadr and his militia before the handover of sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government on June 30. Coalition commanders have vowed to "capture or kill" Mr. Sadr if he doesn't turn himself in. . . . Kufa, where Mr. Sadr's mosque is based, was fairly quiet today, and was still controlled by the Mahdi militia. There was a firefight between the militia and a passing American convoy, witnesses said, but there were no reports of casualties. . . . On Thursday, men wearing black-and-white headdresses and carrying AK-47's stood next to freshly dug foxholes alongside the road. In Najaf, where Mr. Sadr had previously sought refuge, the city was surrounded by 2,500 American troops.

posted by Lorenzo 12:29 PM

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