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A nationwide ceasefire of Moqtada Al Sadr

Shia leader Moqtada Al Sadr on Monday ordered a nationwide ceasefire and announced his militant movement would join the political mainstream, his aides said. “The commander of the Sadr movement, Moqtada Sadr, announced today in Najaf the end of all fighting in the all of Iraq and the integration of his movement in the political process,” Sadr aide Sheikh Naim Al Qaabi said. “This decision shows that the Sadr movement wants peace and participation in the country’s political process, and within the next two days the Sadr movement will explain its political vision on this participation,” the official told reporters in Baghdad. “The Sadr movement is the largest in Iraq because it has wide popular support and we are sure it will play an important part in the country’s political life,” he added, reports Dauly Times. According to Telegraph, the rebel cleric Moqtada al-Sadr yesterday ordered his Mahdi army militia to halt attacks on coalition and Iraqi government forces as aides said he was ready to join the US-backed political process. Sadr indicated that the Shia Muslim uprising he has led might be at an end following last week's peace deal that halted fighting in the holy city of Najaf. This would be a significant boost for the interim government. "Due to the situation in Najaf and the provinces . . . we call on all members of the Mahdi army to cease fire unless in self-defence, and to be patient until the political programme which Sadr's followers are planning is revealed," Sheikh Ali Smeisim, a senior aide to the young cleric, told the Lebanese al-Manar television station. The ceasefire deal was not complete last night and Sadr has previously given many conflicting signals about his intentions. After the Najaf agreement, fighting continued in Sadr City, a Mahdi army stronghold in Baghdad. Sheikh Mahmoud al-Sudani, another Sadr aide, suggested that any shift could be tactical and temporary. "The Mahdi army is now turning to peaceful struggle," he said. "We will have to see in the future. That could change. But now it is peaceful." Ayatollah Ali-al Sistani, who halted the three weeks of fighting in Najaf, is the most popular public figure in Iraq, says a poll which shows a deep undercurrent of respect for religious parties ahead of campaigning for elections planned for January. Even before the three-week battle for control of Najaf, Iraq's most venerated Shia cleric came just ahead of leading figures in the interim Iraqi government and well ahead of Muqtada al-Sadr, the man he ordered to lay down his arms last Thursday night. But Sadr, a leading figure in agitation for a US pullout from Iraq, was high the league table of public figures, with 57.19 percent of Iraqis viewing him positively before his gunmen fought coalition and Iraqi forces in the holy city. The confidential poll, for the International Republican Institute, an offshoot of the US Republican Party and chaired by Senator John McCain, is one of the most comprehensive surveys of Iraqi public opinion since the fall of Saddam Hussein 16 months ago. It shows that most Iraqis see the restoration of a full electricity supply as their primary concern in reconstruction of the country; The biggest group regard crime as the issue most affecting them, and the ability to maintain "order and stability" is the key factor by which they will judge the political parties. The survey, seen by The Independent after being shown to several Iraqi political parties, was done at the end of July and is a snapshot of opinion a month after the handover of sovereignty. But at its heart are complex and sometimes contradictory attitudes on the role of religion in the future of the country. The Islamic parties Dawa, SCIRI, and the IIP are viewed most positively by potential electors and 29 per cent - the biggest single group - believes religious figures will make the best candidates in the elections, ahead of university academics (24 per cent), party leaders(16 per cent) and dissidents against the former regime (5.25 per cent) Almost 70 per cent of those polled agree with the proposition that Islam and sharia should be the "sole basis" of all laws, and 70 per cent say they would prefer a "religious" state. Only 23 per cent would opt for a secular one. But only 4.74 per cent regard a party's religious ties as a key factor by which it will judge whether to vote for a political party. compared with nearly 20 per cent who regard stability and order as the key criterion. Even fewer, 4.52 per cent and 4.28 per cent, respectively say they will judge a party according to whether it is from their own religious or ethnic group, observes Independent.

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