Tue Aug 21, 2018 | 20:32
Sadr vows to fight US overstay
Sat, 09 Apr 2011 12:38:46 GMT
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A supporter of Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr holds his picture while standing near burning US flags in Mustansiriyah Square in northeast Baghdad on April 9, 2011. AFP Photo
Iraq's influential cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has warned that resistance against US forces will increase if the occupiers fail to leave by their deadline at the end of 2011.

In a statement read at an anti-US demonstration in Baghdad on Saturday, Sadr said that Iraqis will "escalate military resistance" to the US occupation after the deadline, Reuters reported.

Some Iraqis held signs reading, "Occupiers Out" and "No to America," while others burned US, Israeli and British flags.

"They, the Iraqi government, agreed with the occupiers that they would leave within months from this homeland, according to an unfair agreement that we did not and will never accept,” spokesman Salah al-Ubaidi read to tens of thousands of supporters.

“We wait for one thing, their full withdrawal from Iraq, and [the departure of] their last soldier and base from these holy and great lands,” he added.

The Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) signed between Baghdad and Washington in 2008 mandates the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq by the end of 2011.

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said Washington will keep its nearly fifty-thousand troops in Iraq if Baghdad asks for additional help. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, however, has rejected the offer.

Sadr, well-known for his anti-US stance, along with his political bloc has vehemently opposed the signing the SOFA with the US, which extends the presence of US troops in Iraq.

Initially the pact was expected to be put to a nationwide vote. However, the Iraqi government, under US pressure, decided against the referendum.

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