Iraq Shiites Petition for US Withdrawal
Iraq Shiites say 400,000 of 1 million signatures have been gathered.
Mon Jul 11, 3:29 PM ET
BAGHDAD (AFP) - (summary) Radicals within Iraq's Shiite majority community launched a petition for the withdrawal of US-led troops, which they said was drawing support from across the sectarian divide.
Mon Jul 11, 3:29 PM ET
Supporters of firebrand cleric Moqtada Sadr, who led a bloody six-month uprising against the coalition last year, said they were aiming to secure one million signatures inside four days.
"We started this morning and so far we have had a good response, not only from Shiites -- Sunnis and Christians have also been coming to our office to show their support," said Ibrahim al-Jaberi, an official in Sadr's movement.
He said more than 400,000 people had signed the petition by midday (0800 GMT).
The petition, which Jaberi said would be submitted to the Iraqi government and United Nations reads: "I hereby declare my rejection of the forces of occupation and demand their withdrawal".
In the radicals' Baghdad stronghold of Sadr City, Zayer Lafta refused a pen, insisting on applying his bloodied thumb to the petition sheet.
"I will sign with my blood, because the country is awash with blood," the 44-year-old said.
"The departure of the occupiers will only benefit the country. Every day they are here the closer Iraq gets to its demise."
Khaled Zuwayed, 23, came with five friends to sign.
"Foreigners have not come to solve this country's problems but to make them worse. We only see car bombs and terrorist attacks," he said.
The Iraqi government asked the United Nations late last month to extend the mandate of foreign troops under Security Council Resolution 1546, despite complaints from MPs that they had not been consulted.
The resolution endorsed last year's restoration of Iraqi sovereignty as well as the continuing foreign troop presence.
Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari heads the Dawa party, a mainstream Shiite religious party, and has backed Washington's refusal to set a timetable for the withdrawal of its 140,000 troops.
Around 20 Sadr supporters won election to parliament as part of the same Shiite alliance as the prime minister, but they ran as independents and Sadr himself has remained enigmatic in his approach to mainstream politics.
With a power base concentrated among the Shiite poor, Sadr has kept up his anti-American rhetoric.
He organized a large rally in central Baghdad on the second anniversary of Saddam Hussein's overthrow in April to demand the departure of foreign troops.
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