Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Iraq update

NAJAF, Iraq (AFP) — The six-month ceasefire order given by Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr to his Mahdi Army militia may not be renewed, his aides warned on Wednesday three days before the "freeze" expires.

"All possibilities are open concerning the prolongation or not of the halt of activities of the Mahdi Army. The matter is in the hands of Moqtada al-Sadr," spokesman Salah al-Obeidi told AFP.

"The deadline is next Saturday," Obeidi said from Sadr's office in the central shrine city of Najaf, adding that an announcement could be made during the weekly Friday prayers.

If Sadr "does not make a pronouncement and no statement is issued, that would signify the end of the period of cessation of activities of the Mahdi Army," Obeidi said.

Hazim al-Aajari, a cleric and confidant of Sadr, told AFP it was certain that an announcement would be made during Friday prayers.

If that ceasefire ends, Iraq won't be so quiet anymore.
The suspension of the militia's activities is cited by US commanders as one of the factors behind a 62 percent reduction in violent attacks across Iraq since June.

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