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IRAQ - Apr 10 - Sadrists Threaten To Quit Iraqi Government.

Iraq's largest grassroots movement threaten to pull out of the government, in a sign of growing impatience among Shi'ite radicals with a joint US-Iraqi security crackdown that has targeted Shi'ite militias. The radical Sadrists have pulled out of the cabinet before, putting political pressure on the PM Nouri al-Maliki, without making a serious move to topple his government. Their statement follows massive anti-American protests and highlights the difficulty Maliki faces in pursuing a policy - of co-operation with the US and accommodation of Sunni communities - that is opposed by many of his constituents. It may indicate that the Sadrists, who were relatively quiet in the first month of the crackdown since February 14, will again throw their political weight around. While a withdrawal would not necessarily bring down Maliki's government, it could delay his political programme. Key steps include a cabinet reshuffle to remove ministers who co-operate with armed groups and a reform of the laws banning former ruling Ba'ath party members from public office. "The Sadrist movement is studying the option of withdrawing from the Iraqi government - a government that has not fulfilled its promises to the people", said a copy of the statement received by the AP. "We are serious about withdrawing", it added. The Sadrists' political committee issued the threat in response to comments by Maliki during his ongoing four-day visit to Japan, in which he said he saw no need for a timetable for withdrawal by US troops. "[Our] movement strongly rejects the statements of PM Nouri al-Maliki, in which he stood by the continued presence of occupation forces despite the will of the Iraqi people", said the statement. The two-month-old crackdown initiated by Maliki's government was "unfair", it said. The Sadrist movement suspended its participation in government for two months in November 2006 after a meeting between Maliki and George W. Bush, US president, in Amman. While the move had little impact on the day-to-day administration of the country, it froze key legislative packages that required parliamentary approval. Maliki's government faces difficulties getting legislation through parliament. Ali al-Sistani, the venerated Shi'ite grand Ayat, issued a statement against rehabilitating "criminals" in the former Ba'ath party. Legislation to govern control of oil resources is also before parliament.
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Publication:APS Diplomat Recorder
Date:Apr 14, 2007
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