French ambassador meets with Muqtada al-Sadr movement

French Ambassador Bernard Bajolet met Wednesday with officials from the movement of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, members of the Iraqi organization said. The meeting follows the explosion of sectarian strife unleashed by the bombing of a Shiite shrine last week.

The meeting included Abdul-Hadi al-Daraji, al-Sadr's chief representative in Baghdad, and senior official Abdul-Kazim al-Suaidi and took place in al-Sadr's headquarters in the capital.

The meeting began in late morning, and Shiite officials said the first topic was the controversy over cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that triggered riots and demonstrations through the Muslim world.

The two sides were also expected to discuss efforts to heal Sunni-Shiite tensions which exploded after the Feb. 22 bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra and the wave of reprisal attacks against Sunnis that followed.

Al-Sadr's movement is part of the United Iraqi Alliance, a coalition of Shiite religious parties which controls 130 of the 275 seats in parliament. Al-Sadr's influence was crucial in winning Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari a nomination for a second term, reports the AP.

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