Fri, 20 Jun 2008 18:19:18
Hundreds of Iraqis loyal to senior cleric Moqtada al-Sadr stage a rally to protest plans for a long-term security pact with the US.
Following the weekly Friday prayers, hundreds of Iraqis took to streets in protest to the proposed security pact which has strongly been opposed by Iraqi officials and lawmakers.
The pact would provide a legal footing for the presence of US forces in Iraq after a United Nations mandate expires later this year, raising fears that it would impair Iraq's independence and sovereignty
Sheik Assad al-Nassiri warned the agreement, awaiting completion by July 31, will 'humiliate Iraqis, rob the Iraqi government of its sovereignty and give the occupier the upper hand'.
During a sermon in Kufa, Nassiri described the US presence as the main reason behind all of Iraq's crises, expressing dismay at some government officials to call on 'the occupation forces' to stay.
Demonstrators in Kufa as well as Baghdad's Sadr City chanted "No, no to America, No, no to the agreement," carrying banners reading "we will not accept Iraq to be an American colony.''
Tensions rose high on Thursday when Iraqi troops arrested Amarah mayor, Rafia Abdul-Jabbar, and 16 others for alleged involvement with militias.
The 'random detentions' by US-backed Iraqi security forces in the southern city drew strong criticism from Sadrists, who believe the arrests are being carried out 'without warrants and in contrary to what Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki says'.
Critics say Washington has failed to offer a firm commitment to defend the country from any invasion, denouncing a demand for immunity from prosecution in Iraqi courts for all American personnel in Iraq.
There is also controversy over the number of bases the US would maintain in the country and whether its military will retain the power to arrest Iraqi civilians and keep them in its detention facilities.
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