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Moqtada Sadr urges his followers not to fight government forces

BAGHDAD, May 25 (KUNA) -- Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr on Friday said he was against clashing with the legitimate forces of law and order because this served the interests of foreign occupation forces.
The young cleric, who called for the withdrawal of multinational forces (MNF) appeared for Friday prayers at a local mosque three months after he had reportedly fled to Iran when the US-backed Baghdad security plan was launched.
"You should beware that those who are behind your clashes with the forces of law and order are the occupation forces, who are looking for an excuse for staying in Iraq. So do not give them that excuse," he said in a Friday sermon addressed to his followers, who gathered in the mosque for the traditional Friday prayers.
He stressed that "any fighting between the Mehdi army (loyal to him) and the forcers of law and order, is forbidden and banned," he said.
He called on members of the Mehdi army to use "peaceful means in the face of any provocation from the weak-hearted." He urged the government not to renew the mandate of the MNF "not even for an extra day, because we want them to withdraw." He called on the authorities to restore basic services, prevent members of the dismantled Baath Party from returning to positions of power and called for repairing religious shrines, that were recently damaged by bomb attacks. (end) mag.eh KUNA 251524 May 07NNNN