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IRAQ - Dec 9 - Muqtada Followers Omitted As Shiite Finalise Polls List.

Shiite politicians say they have finalised an electoral alliance of the country's main Shiite parties, but that it excluded the followers of the former insurgent leader Muqtada Al Sadr. The absence of Sadr's followers, however, damps hopes that a movement that plunged much of southern Iraq into rebellion over the summer had committed itself to peaceful electoral politics. Since negotiations behind the list became public two months ago, Sadr loyalists have issued contradictory messages about whether they would participate, but politicians associated with Sistani expressed confidence that the radical movement could be brought on board. Hussain Al Shahristani, a nuclear scientist involved in compiling the list, said that the Sadr supporters were not included for bureaucratic reasons, but would back the list. "The Sadr movement is not registered as a political entity, and therefore is not part of the alliance. but they are supporting the Marja'iya [Shiite clergy] in its call for elections and they are asking their followers to vote for this list", Shahristani said. However, a leading Sadr loyalist politician was quoted by the Arabic-language Al Hayat newspaper on Dec 7 Sadr's followers would "suspend" its participation in the elections, and denied reports of support for Sistani's list. Ali Smeisim said: We are under siege and prevented from holding Friday prayers in the Kufa mosque [near Najaf]. They closed our offices and they arrested many of the [Sadr] trend's leaders. We suspend our participation in the election unless the government changes its policies, and then we will support the list that we see represents the will of the people". Muqtada Al Sadr is a rebel theologian who tried to halt the peaceful efforts of US who mediate Sadr has not led prayers in the Kufa mosque near his home in Najaf, nor made any other appearances, since ending a three-week insurrection in late August. Adnan Al Zurfi, Najaf governor, said that he had come under pressure from Baghdad to let Sadr speak, but insisted that he would continue to "put a rock in [Sadr's] mouth" until the radical leader pledged not to support violence. Shiite politicians also say that Sadr has been reluctant to participate in a list likely to be dominated by Sciri, which the radical leader is said particularly to dislike but which has close ties with Sistani and is expected to rank high on the list. Sadr's main representatives could not be reached for comment. Some parties have said that the list - may be dominated by conservative Islamists who favour theologianal rule. Iraqi leaders have also recently accused Iran, which enjoys close ties with several parties including Sciri, of meddling in Iraqi politics.
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Title Annotation:Muqtada Al Sadr
Publication:APS Diplomat Recorder
Geographic Code:7IRAQ
Date:Dec 11, 2004
Words:438
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