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.