Moqtada al-Sadr has presented himself as a mediator in between president Massud Barzani and premier Nuri al-Maliki
Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr speaks at a press conference in Arbil during a visit to Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region. Sadr opposes toppling the Iraqi government, but discussed not renewing the premier's mandate during a visit to Kurdistan, Sadr Movement officials say. © Safin Hamed - AFP
Moqtada al-Sadr has presented himself as a mediator in between president Massud Barzani and premier Nuri al-Maliki
Last updated: April 27, 2012

Sadr against fall of current Iraqi government

Powerful Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr opposes toppling the Iraqi government but discussed during a visit to Kurdistan not renewing the premier's mandate, Sadr Movement officials said on Friday.

Sadr arrived in the autonomous Kurdistan region on Thursday, presenting himself as a mediator in a crisis between Kurdistan president Massud Barzani and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

He met Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and top Kurdistan officials in Arbil on Friday, a statement on the Iraqi presidency's website said.

"Moqtada al-Sadr discussed a number of issues during his visit to the Kurdistan region, among them not renewing (the mandate of) Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki," who is currently in his second term as premier, said Dhia al-Assadi, secretary general of Sadr's Al-Ahrar parliamentary bloc.

Sadr emphasised the neutrality of his movement, and "called for supporting the current government and not overthrowing it, on the condition that all Iraqis should participate in it," said Assadi.

Sadr also "emphasised the main ideology of the Sadr Movement, which is based on the necessity of providing services to Iraqis and taking care of Iraqis, and that Iraq's wealth be for all Iraqis," Assadi said.

Other issues discussed included "the problem between the head of the (Kurdistan) region and the federal government and the other political problems."

Another high-ranking Sadr Movement official confirmed that Sadr had discussed not renewing Maliki's mandate, but said there was no agreement on the issue, as it requires a law to be approved by parliament.

"The prime minister already announced on more than one occasion his intention to not be a candidate for a third term and called for limiting the mandate of the prime minister to two terms," the official said on condition of anonymity.

Sadr met in Arbil on Friday with Talabani, Barzani, the region's prime minister Nechirvan Barzani and other officials, according to the statement on the presidency's website.

Those at the meeting "emphasised the necessity of putting in place a full national programme where the higher interests of the Iraqi people have the upper hand over sectarian and party interests," it said.

Maliki said in a 2011 interview with AFP that he would not seek a third term, and that he supported constitutionally limiting a premier to two terms.

He first took office in 2006, and gained another term in 2010 after more than nine months of political deadlock and wrangling that followed inconclusive parliamentary polls. His second term expires in 2014.

Tensions remain high between Kurdistan chief Barzani and Maliki.

Barzani said on Sunday that he opposed the sale of F-16 warplanes to Iraq while Maliki is premier, as he fears they would be used against Kurdistan.

The Kurdish leader had previously accused Maliki of moving towards dictatorship, and said the premier aimed to "kill the democratic process" after the head of Iraq's electoral commission was arrested for alleged corruption.

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