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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 April, 2004, 18:54 GMT 19:54 UK
'I'm ready to die' - Moqtada Sadr
Moqtada Sadr
Sadr has supporters among Iraq's radical Shias

Iraqi Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr has denounced the actions of the coalition forces in Iraq and expressed his willingness to die for his beliefs in an interview in the Iraqi city of Najaf with Lebanese Hezbollah TV al-Manar.

Mr Sadr said recent events had created a sense of unity among Iraqis and he called for protests in the Arab world against the actions of foreign forces. Here are excerpts from his interview:

I denounce the occupation forces' acts against the demonstrators, civilians, defenceless ones and innocent people. I also denounce the violations and siege on the Iraqi cities and the shelling of houses. The occupation forces even targeted women, children and babies...

I would like to address the peoples of the world, especially the Arab peoples and the US people. Their silence over the violations against the oppressed Iraqi people who suffered greatly cannot be accepted by any fair-minded and zealous person.

Therefore, all must take these violations seriously and express themselves even through peaceful demonstrations, sit-ins and protests. I urge those people to distance themselves from their rulers who support the West and the occupation forces. Such rulers do not do any good to peoples...

'Popular revolution'

The Iraqi people rebelled against this tyranny and oppression in order to spread freedom and democracy. This is a popular and legitimate Iraqi revolution against tyranny and oppression. It is a natural reaction to these violations...

No people can tolerate life under occupation. The Iraqi people want their independence, freedom, not foreign freedom and Western democracy. Rather, they seek the most refined democracy, which is Islamic democracy. God willing, we will succeed to establish it in this country and in the entire world...

I am ready to sacrifice my blood for the sake of the Iraqi people
Moqtada Sadr

There is no genuine transfer of power. There will be no Iraqi sovereignty, nor will power be transferred to the Iraqis. Rather, it is a Western authority defined by the Americans.

They say freedom and democracy, and yet they appoint a government. Appointment cannot agree with freedom and democracy. Rather, we are demanding with all our strength the formation of an Iraqi government and sovereignty, but not through the Americans and occupiers. They have no right to interfere in Iraqi affairs whatsoever...

'Big No to negotiations'

I fear none but God. I am ready to sacrifice my blood for the sake of this homeland. However, I urge the Iraqi people... not to consider my killing, if I may say so, an end to the Iraqi people's rejection of the occupation and demand for independence, freedom, and the spread of Islam and peace in the world... do not let my death be a pretext to stop your efforts to please God and spread Islam... I am ready to sacrifice my blood for the sake of the Iraqi people...

I open any door that would bring about relief. Efforts are open. The religious authority is cooperating, God willing. I am ready to serve and implement any order given by any religious authority. I told the religious authority that my only initial demand now, if I can say, is to liberate the capital of Imam Mahdi, Holy Najaf, from the yoke of occupation, and their withdrawal as soon as possible... There are negotiations between me and some parties or religious authorities. I say a big No to negotiations with the occupiers who are shedding the blood of the Iraqi people.

Al-Mahdi army

Regarding the disbanding of al-Mahdi army, I said that the al-Mahdi army does not belong to me, but it is the base of Imam al-Mahdi. All those who are in Iraq are al-Mahdi army. It is not only me, or as they [the Americans] claim, 1,000, 2,000 or 6,000 people. From north to south and from east to west, including all sects - and I do not like to say Sunnis or Shias - Iraq is one with all its regions and ethnic groups, all Iraq is al-Mahdi army, God willing, and al-Mahdi army is the army of God. Eventually, it will triumph...

Relations [between Moqtada Sadr's office and the religious authorities, particularly Ali al-Sistani], God willing, are good. I would like to say that the recent actions against the Iraqi people have bolstered solidarity among the Iraqi people, whether on the level of the religious authorities, or, although I do not like to say so, on the level of Muslims, Shias and Sunnis, north and west, and east and west. These developments have bolstered unity and solidarity among the Iraqi people. This is a very good sign of the liberation of Iraq as soon as possible, God willing...

Foreign forces

As for the occupation forces, I tell them to detach themselves from the forces of terrorism, the forces of the ill-omened trinity, America, Britain and Israel; to separate themselves from them; and to support the Iraqi people, not the occupation, against this terrorism and aggression.

I also call on them to achieve peace with the Iraqi people, to withdraw from Iraq, and to be friends in peace together. This will be a point of good relations between us and the peoples whose forces will withdraw from Iraq. They will be safe inside and outside Iraq as long as they do not work with the occupation forces.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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