Russian media interviews Shiite leader

In his exclusive RIA Novosti interview, Muqtada As-Sadr, leader of Iraq's Shiite community, demanded an end to aggression and the withdrawal of troops.

We are ready to negotiate with the occupation regime; however, we have no intention of renouncing our demands with regard to that regime, As-Sadr noted.

First of all, this concerns our demands pertaining to the withdrawal of troops from all Iraqi regions and an end to the aggression against the Iraqi nation, As-Sadr stressed.

At the same time, As-Sadr noted that he won't negotiate with the murderers of Iraqi citizens.

I want to say "No" once again to direct talks with the United States, As-Sadr added. As before, our main pre-conditions are as follows - the anti-Iraqi aggression must stop in all parts of the country; moreover, foreign forces are forbidden to enter the holy cities of An-Najaf and Kerbela. (The tombs of Prophet Mohammed's son-in-law Caliph Ali, who is particularly revered by Shiite Moslems as the first Imam, and his son Hussein, whose mother is Prophet Mohammed's daughter Fatima, are located in these holy cities - Ed.) The Al-Arabiya TV-satellite channel quoted As-Sadr's aide Abdel Karim Al-Anzi April 14 as saying that As-Sadr had renounced his demands, and that he will now be guided by specific Shiite-clergy decisions.

My demands to the occupation administration reflect the demands of all Iraqis to stop the occupation and not to hinder the establishment of Sharia law (Islamic legislation) in Iraq, As-Sadr noted. I want no more than the Iraqi nation itself wants, he stressed.

All I want to ask of the Iraqi nation, in case the Americans manage to kill me, is that it should not renounce the struggle for independence, freedom and the subsequent spread of the Islamic doctrine, As-Sadr noted.

US forces, which have come a long way into Iraq, didn't intend to liberate our country from Saddam Hussein. In real life, they strive to do away with local Islamic values and traditions, to ensure Israel's all-out control in this region and to establish complete control over Iraqi oil, As-Sadr believes.

In his words, every Iraqi citizen shares As-Sadr's opinion to the effect that the United States doesn't intend to withdraw from Iraq, after suffering substantial financial losses and casualties as a result of Iraq's occupation; this apparently won't happen even after that long-awaited transfer of power to Iraqi authorities.

With this in mind, the occupation regime has chosen suitable Iraqi politicians well in advance; such politicians will zealously defend US interests in Iraq, As-Sadr claims.

That's why the United States declares all honest Iraqis, who oppose the occupation of their homeland, to be enemies threatening them. Consequently, occupation authorities became really alarmed when the Mahdi Army, i.e. a military formation, which comprises As-Sadr's armed supporters, and which is named after the "hidden" 12-th Messiah Imam, whose coming will herald the victory of good over evil, tried to occupy its befitting place in the new Iraqi society, As-Sadr noted.

According to the Shiite leader, the occupation of Iraq would end completely, after nationwide elections are held, and when the last US soldier leaves Iraq.

A future Iraqi state must be based on Sharia principles, As-Sadr pointed out.

We strive to establish a just Islamic state for the people, As-Sadr noted, while replying to a question about his idea of a future Iraq's ideal political system.

That future state, which won't distinguish between Shiites, Sunnis and Christians, must, nonetheless, hinge on Sharia principles, the Shiite leader stressed.

Talking about the Iraqi state system, As-Sadr said he was sure that federalism would lead to Iraq's disintegration.

Iraqi federalism would serve to divide the country; that's why we emphatically oppose any project for imposing a federative-state system on Iraq, As-Sadr stressed.

According to the Shiite leader, the people of Iraq had voiced their attitude toward federalism a few months ago by holding massive protests in different Iraqi provinces.

Those, who support federalism in Iraq, are genuine enemies of the Iraqi nation, As-Sadr said. We perceive a plan stipulating a federative-state system for Iraq as yet another version of the secret Sykes-Picot agreement for the partition of the Ottoman empire's Asian regions (May 1916). The sorry fate of war-torn and ruined Palestine highlights Iraq's possible future; the same may happen to Iraq, if those, who merely call themselves Iraqis, but who really care about their own mercenary interests alone, take over, As-Sadr went on to say.

Replying to a question about Russia's role in solving the Iraqi problem, As-Sadr noted that the Russian position had matched the Iraqi nation's interests for many consecutive years.

I personally want to say that, first of all, I'd like Russia to play a substantial role in countering the insolence of US leaders, who can destroy the world, As-Sadr, said.

Russia, which remains a superpower, can provide tremendous assistance to Iraq, As-Sadr noted. Russia, which is also a permanent member of the UN Security Council, can influence the position of that international organization for the sake of opposing dangerous US plans, the Shiite leader went on to say.

Talking about the evacuation of Russian specialists, As-Sadr said he regretted an incident when three Russians and five Ukrainians from Russia's Inter-Energo-Service company were taken hostage in Baghdad in the evening of April 12. All of them were subsequently released in the afternoon of April 13.

In this connection, we have already condemned the taking of hostages, As-Sadr stressed, noting that this, among other things, concerned Russian citizens, who had rendered substantial aid to the people of Iraq until the last moment.

As-Sadr's supporters and coalition forces have been clashing for more than a week now.

Coalition authorities have issued a warrant for As-Sadr's arrest; consequently, the Shiite leader was forced to go into hiding.

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