Iraqi Shiite cleric returns to Iraq from Iran

08:19, February 24, 2011      

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Iraqi radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr on Wednesday returned home in the holy Shiite city of Najaf, an official from Sadr's office said.

"Sayyed Moqtada al-Sadr, head of al-Sadr movement, has arrived home in Najaf in the afternoon, coming from Tehran," the source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.

Sadr has been in the neighboring Iran for more than three years for Shiite religious studies in the holy Iranian city of Qom.

Last month, Sadr returned to Iraq for two weeks but he suddenly left to Iran to come back on Wednesday to the country again.

Earlier in the day, Sadr's political office released a statement by Moqtada al-Sadr calling for holding a survey among Iraqis within a week in all Iraq's 18 provinces about their opinion over public services.

One of the survey's questions asking people whether they prefer peaceful demonstrations if the government fail to improve public services after more than six months.

Observers here see Sadr's move as part of various measures by the Iraqi politicians to help soothe rising anger among Iraqis who accuse the politicians and the government officials of failure yet they get very high salaries while normal people are suffering poverty and poor public services.

Recently, several thousands of Iraqis sporadically took to the streets in several provinces across the country protesting unemployment and a sharp rise in the prices of food staples, as well as demanding better public services.

Iraq has been slow in improving services almost eight years after the U.S.-led invasion.

Iraqi groups on the social networking website Facebook are calling for a coordinated protest on February 25, asking Iraqis to hold what they named "Revolution of Iraqi Rage" In Baghdad's al- Tahrir (Liberation) Square, which located just across the Tigris River near the Green Zone that houses the Iraqi government's offices and the U.S. embassy.

Sadr, in his 30s, gained popularity among younger Shiite Iraqis by his anti-American rhetoric since the toppling of former president Saddam Hussein's government by the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. His Mahdi Army militia has been fighting against U.S. troops and was one of the major forces in the sectarian strife in Iraq that claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.

Meanwhile, the cleric's recent returns in Iraq seem to be part of relief between his group and Maliki's Dawa Party despite Maliki led a crackdown against Sadr's Mahdi Army in 2008.

However, Sadr's movement backed Maliki to take another term as prime minister during his struggle in 2010 against the Sunni- backed political bloc headed by the secular politician Ayad Allawi.

Source:Xinhua
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