Sadr Group Warns of Post-Elections Sectarian Conflict
By Radwa Hassan, IOL Staff
CAIRO, January 29 (IslamOnline.net) – An aide to anti-occupation Iraqi Shiite leader Moqtada Al-Sadr has reiterated opposition to the controversial general vote, warning it runs the risk of a deadly sectarian conflict.
“Taking into consideration the popularity and clout enjoyed by Al-Sadr group, one realizes that not all Shiites are participating in Sunday’s polls,” Sheikh Hassan Al-Zarqani, the group’s media officer, told IslamOnline.net.
(photo caption) Zarqani contended that the Sadr group has not put forward a slate and will not support any of the 111 vying slates. (Reuters)
“One also realizes that, on the contrary, the majority of Shiites oppose the elections,” he added in a live dialogue with IOL audience.
Zarqani maintained that even Shiite scholars do not see eye-to-eye on the controversial polls.
“Some religious authorities, like Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, support the vote, others prohibit it and a third camp sets a pullout timetable as a precondition for any participation.”
He underlined, meanwhile, that Sadr’s position on the elections remains unchanged.
“We believe that the vote is an attempt to legitimize the occupation and would never sign up to any such thing.”
Zarqani contended that the Sadr group has not put forward a slate and will not support any of the 111 vying slates.
Iraq’s major Shiite groups unveiled on December 9 a much-talked-about unified list of 228 candidates and Sadr was conspicuous by his absence.
Around 14 million Iraqis are eligible to cast ballots Sunday, January 30, at some 5,700 polling stations to elect a 275-seat National Assembly that will in turn choose a Presidency Council and draft the country’s new constitution.
The constitution must then be ratified through a national referendum – scheduled to take place at the end of 2005.
Zarqani further warned that the vote could spark a bloody sectarian conflict in the country.
“We are trying our best to take into our stride malicious practices by some Shiite and Sunni extremists,” he told IOL audience.
“The Sunnis and the Shiites in Iraq are just like the chemical formula H20, which is composed of hydrogen and oxygen atoms. United they give water for life but when disunited, they became lethal.”
He said both communities must work hard to nip in the bud malignant disunity bids by “Israel and the United States.”
To counter such attempts, Zarqani suggesting “creating an all-inclusive religious authority, encompassing all Iraqis and melting away all ethnic lines.”
Iraq's Sunnis and Shiites formed in May last year a pan-religious body to stream efforts for ending the occupation.
The United Iraqi Scholars Group -- which appointed a 16-strong leadership panel -- vowed to boycott any political group handpicked by the US occupation authorities.
Asked on the unabated resistance, Zarqani said Iraqi fighters will only give up arms if the elections bring in politicians who care for the common good of all Iraqis.
“The Iraqi people want a pullout timetable, security, job opportunities and social services,” he added.
“Only then will the resistance play a political role acting as a monitor of the government’s actions.
“We will obey the new elected government if serving the best interests of the Iraqi people. If not, we will be its archenemies,” Zarqani warned.
He blamed media outlets for the wrong notion that Al-Sadr group was not clear on the resistance issue.
“Our figures are deliberately kept out of the limelight, which set tongues wagging.”
Zarqani also hit out at Al-Qaeda leader in Iraq, Abu Musaab Al-Zarqawi, for “tarnishing the image of resistance and associating it with the ugly and indiscriminate terror attacks.”
“He has become a tool used by the US to press ahead with its agenda in Iraq,” he said.
Sadr’s Mahdi army engaged last year in pitched battles with US occupation troops after the arrest of one of his top aides and the closure of the group’s mouthpiece newspaper Al-Hawza Al-Natiqa.
After four months of bloody battles that killed hundreds of Shiites, Sadr ordered his militiamen to disarm and leave Imam Ali Shrine in the holy city of Najaf as part of a deal brokered by Sistani.
also see: http://islamonline.net/English/News/2004-08/27/article01.shtml