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Last Updated: Monday, 5 July, 2004, 17:53 GMT 18:53 UK
Sadr softens Iraq resistance call
Moqtada Sadr
Mr Sadr's forces have been fighting the coalition since April
Anti-US cleric Moqtada Sadr will continue to lead a resistance against foreign forces in Iraq - but will not advocate violence, his spokesman says.

The statement appears to temper earlier remarks by Mr Sadr, who had reportedly said his truce with US forces was over.

The move follows the Iraqi government's decision to delay unveiling a new security law to tackle the insurgency.

Mr Sadr's spokesman said the truce was still in place but peaceful resistance to foreign forces would continue.

"We are committed to the truce but peaceful resistance will remain until the last moment that foreign troops are present on Iraqi land," the spokesman, Mahmoud al-Soudani said.

'Legitimate' resistance

The latest statement marks a return to a more conciliatory stance indicated by Mr Sadr when an interim government took charge in Iraq in late June.

Resistance is a legitimate right and not a crime to be punished
Moqtada Sadr

Mr Sadr asked his Mehdi army militia to withdraw from confrontation with the US-led forces which led to clashes in several Shia holy sites since April.

He had also indicated his men would lay down their arms if offered an amnesty.

But this was briefly replaced by a more belligerent stance on Monday, when Mr Sadr's office in the Shia holy city of Najaf, announced: "We pledge to the Iraqi people and the world to continue resisting oppression and occupation to our last drop of blood.

"Resistance is a legitimate right and not a crime to be punished."

Security delay

On Monday, the interim government of Prime Minister Iyad Allawi postponed for a second time its unveiling of a new security regime that it wants to impose to curb the insurgency that continues to destabilise the country.

Officials cancelled a news conference scheduled on Monday to announce the law. No new time was set, reports said.

The government had planned the announcement for Saturday, but that event was also cancelled.

Mr Allawi's interim government was formally handed sovereign powers by the US-led occupation on 28 June.

Officials have indicated they would impose a tough security regime, reinstate the death penalty and offer a amnesty to insurgents fighting the occupation for patriotic purposes.

Members of the former ruling Baath party with "blood on their hands", criminals and foreign Islamic militants would not be included in the amnesty.

The death penalty could apply to Saddam Hussein and 11 of his regime leaders who made their first appearances before an Iraqi investigative judge last Thursday.

The BBC's Orla Guerin
"It suggests at the very least confusion and at worst disagreement"

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