Wednesday, 09 April 2008, 03:13 GMT
Mehdi Army ordered to disarm

Talabani explained in a press conference that they agreed to continue the meeting with al-Sadrists to reach solutions of disputable points.

The Kurdish Globe

Al-Maliki claims "wide spectrum of support" for his efforts to take on al-Sadr.

Facing political isolation, Muqtada al-Sadr says he will stand down only if
Shiite religious clerics order him to do so.

In an interview with U.S. CNN on Sunday, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki demanded young cleric Muqtada al-Sadr disband his Mehdi Army and threatened to bar him and his followers from the political process if they refuse.

"A decision was taken yesterday that they no longer have a right to participate in the political process or take part in the upcoming elections unless they end the Mehdi Army," al-Maliki said.

Al-Maliki's warning came a day after a meeting held by the Iraqi National Security Council, which included Iraq's president, prime minister, and heads of the parliamentary blocs.

The meeting concluded with the issuance of 15 instructions to rescue the political process in the country while Al-Sadr Stream refused two points, including the call for militias to disarm.

The National Security Council called on "adopting the necessary rational political discourse for calming down and settling the political differences." This came after weeklong conflicts between Iraqi official forces and gunmen belonging to al-Sadr's Mehdi Army.

Sadrists refused the second and fourth instructions that demand political powers stand with the government and its security establishments "in confronting the militias" and call on "all parties to immediately dissolve their militias and surrender their weapons to the government" as a condition for their participation in the political process and in the upcoming elections.

Responding to al-Maliki's comments, a spokesman for al-Sadr, Sheikh Salah al-Obeidi, said that any effort to bar Sadrists from participation in politics would be unconstitutional and any decision to disband the Mehdi Army is not the government's to make.
"It is up to the side that established it," he said.

Head of the al-Sadr Stream parliamentary bloc, Nassar Al-Rubai'e, announced on Sunday that they refused these points because the word "militias" "is not clear and thus can be interpreted for the interest of political powers."

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani explained in a press conference held after the meeting on Saturday that they agreed to continue the meeting with al-Sadrists to reach solutions of disputable points. "They are agreeing in general to maintain security, impose law, and to work for the country's stability," said Talabani.

Other instructions were for the government to offer services to areas damaged in the latest fighting and for the Iraq people to cooperate with security forces to eliminate violence.

On a political level, the National Security Council demanded the acceleration of constitutional amendments, including re-establishing a government of national unity as agreed upon nationally, and encouraged those parliamentary blocs that withdrew to review their differences and positions for the sake of their quick return to the government.