Iraq: Cleric al-Sadr calls for peaceful protests

BAGHDAD: Iraqi Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr has called for peaceful protests after the passage of a security pact that will let U.S. forces stay in Iraq through 2011.

The cleric's spokesman says al-Sadr also wants his followers to close his offices and affiliated institutions for three days "to show the tragedy that has befallen us."

Sheik Salah al-Obeidi read al-Sadr's statement to reporters in the holy city of Najaf on Friday, a day after lawmakers approved the deal. Iraq's presidential council still needs to ratify it.

Al-Sadr's statement calls for "peaceful public protests" and the display of black banners as a sign of mourning. But it doesn't repeat his threat to unleash militia fighters to attack U.S. forces if they don't leave immediately.

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