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Iraqi Cleric's Timetable Petition Gains Support

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Iraqi Cleric's Timetable Petition Gains Support

Iraqi Cleric's Timetable Petition Gains Support

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.


And I'm Robert Siegel.

As Democrats on Capitol Hill push the Bush administration to accept a timetable for an Iraq troop withdrawal, a similar campaign is underway in the Iraqi parliament.

Supporters of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr are circulating a petition demanding that Baghdad seek a timetable from Washington.

NPR's Jamie Tarabay has this from Baghdad.

JAMIE TARABAY: So far, slightly more than half Iraq's 275 parliament members have signed the petition. They include Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds, but there's more to the document than just a call for U.S. forces to withdraw. It also demands that the Baghdad government clarify how long it will be before Iraqi forces are ready to take over security duties here.

Kurdish lawmakers like Mahmoud Othman are upset that Sadr's bloc hasn't publicized this aspect of the petition.

Dr. MAHMOUD ALI OTHMAN (Member, Iraqi Council of Representatives): He should have mentioned the number of people who have written this in front of their signatures. I think their announcement hasn't been an honest one.

TARABAY: Othman says the main point of the petition was to have the presence of foreign forces in Iraq debated on the parliament floor. The Baghdad government is expected to renew the mandate for U.S. troops when it comes up for extension next month. Othman says any debate in parliament would be unlikely to affect that decision.

Dr. OTHMAN: The parliament will approve it, maybe after some discussions, because the government has a majority in parliament.

TARABAY: But lawmakers loyal to Moqtada al-Sadr say a government decision to extend the troop presence without consulting parliament would be a breach of the constitution. Saleh al-Ageili from Sadr's bloc in parliament says the legislature has the right to approve international agreements.

Mr. SALEH AL-AGEILI (Spokesman, Sadr Movement's Parliamentary Bloc): (Through translator) We in the Sadr bloc drafted a resolution and submitted it to parliament, asking the Iraqi government to set a timetable for the invasion forces to withdraw. Secondly, we want the Iraqi government to set a timetable for building the Iraqi forces.

TARABAY: Sadr's petition also demands that the government not accept any more increases in the number of U.S. troops here. Ageili says the draft also demands the U.S. surrender all its military bases and camps in Iraq immediately after it withdraws.

Mr. AGEILI: (Through translator) A withdrawal has to be done immediately after the Iraqi security forces have been built up. This timetable should not be for 40 or 50 years.

TARABAY: But when pressed to suggest a timeframe, the Sadr politician would not answer. He said the petition's been sent to the ministers of defense and interior as well as to the prime minister's office. There's been no official response as yet.

Iraq's president, Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, told reporters in England today that Iraq will need the foreign forces here for at least another year. Iraqi security forces have yet to win the confidence of most ordinary Iraqis, and violence continues to rock the country. There were car bomb attacks on two separate bridges in the vicinity of Baghdad today. At least 22 people were killed and more than 60 wounded.

Jamie Tarabay, NPR News, Baghdad.

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