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Sadr to Bu$h: Withdraw Troops Immediately Or Face Revolution

"I address my enemy Bush. You are now fighting an entire nation, from south to north, from east to west, and we advise you to withdraw from Iraq," Shiite radical leader Moqtada Sadr said Friday in a message read by one of his aides at the main mosque in this central town.

"I call on America not to confront the Iraqi revolution," said the message read by Sheikh Jaber al-Khafagi to worshippers gathered for the main weekly prayers in this shrine town, a Sadr stronghold.

Another Sadr aide, Hassan Haidari, later told AFP that the rebel leader "did not come to the prayer in Kufa because he is observing a sit-in and has begun a hunger strike in protest at the American massacres" in Iraq.
(AFP Photo/Ahmad Al-Rubaye)
(AFP Photo/Ahmad Al-Rubaye)
Iraqi Shiite Muslims perform the Friday midday prayer in Baghdad's Shiite neighborhood of Sadr City. Outlawed Shiite Muslim radical leader Moqtada Sadr branded US President George W. Bush an 'enemy' and told him to withdraw his troops from Iraq or face a revolution.
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Iraq Shiite radical tells Bush to withdraw troops or face revolution

Fri Apr 9,12:07 PM ET Add Mideast - AFP to My Yahoo!

KUFA, Iraq (AFP) - Outlawed Shiite Muslim radical leader Moqtada Sadr branded US President George W. Bush an "enemy" and told him to withdraw his troops from Iraq or face a revolution.

The cleric, whose supporters have held firm against the US-led coalition across central and southern Iraq, also began a hunger strike as aides said the coalition's civil administrator Paul Bremer had ruled out peace talks.

"I address my enemy Bush. You are now fighting an entire nation, from south to north, from east to west, and we advise you to withdraw from Iraq," he said Friday in a message read by one of his aides at the main mosque in this central town.

"I call on America not to confront the Iraqi revolution," said the message read by Sheikh Jaber al-Khafagi to worshippers gathered for the main weekly prayers in this shrine town, a Sadr stronghold.

Sadr also announced that he and his followers "have laid the foundation stone of the state of the Mehdi" a reference to Al-Mehdi Al-Montazer, or the "hidden imam", the 12th and last revered leader of the Shiite Muslims who disappeared in 907 AD.

A central belief of Shiites, who make up the majority in Iraq, is that Mehdi is the sole legitimate ruler and no political action should be taken in his absence.

Sadr had been expected to deliver the weekly sermon himself as usual but Khafagi said he was "unable to be with us today".

Another Sadr aide, Hassan Haidari, later told AFP that the rebel leader "did not come to the prayer in Kufa because he is observing a sit-in and has begun a hunger strike in protest at the American massacres" in Iraq.

Earlier this week, Sadr, who has been outlawed by the US-led coalition after being charged with two counts of murder by an Iraqi investigating magistrate, barricaded himself inside the Kufa mosque.

But he ended his sit-in on Tuesday and left for the nearby pilgrimage city of Najaf where he is holed up at an undisclosed location.

Haidar also revealed that mediation bids to solve the crisis between Sadr and the coalition had been rejected by the country's US overseer.

"We are ready for discussions but Bremer is opposed to it," he said.

In his message to worshippers, Sadr warned Bush that unless he removed his troops from Iraq, "you will lose the (November presidential) elections you are now struggling for".

He also warned that Iraqis who failed to heed his call to fight the US-led occupation would "burn in hell".

"All faithful Iraqi men and women who have heard my call (to join) the struggle and do not heed it, will burn in hell ... and will be an outlaw," his message said.

The message was also full of praise for his Mehdi Army militia, saying it had "proven its ability, heroism and organisation day after day".

Earlier this week the Mehdi Army fought fierce battles with Italian coalition troops in the southern city of Nasiriyah when they took control of three key bridges in the Shiite city.

The militiamen agreed early Wednesday to pull out and hand over their positions to police.

The militiamen also seized control of the central Iraqi Shiite city of Kut after pushing Ukrainian troops from its center, but were driven out again by US troops who recaptured the town early Friday.

"After my death, the fate of the Mehdi Army will be decided by Imam Mehdi," Sadr said in his message.

He also accused members of the coalition-installed interim Governing Council of being "traitors".

As Khafagi read the statement, the hundreds of worshippers in the mosque's courtyard interrupted him with deafening cries of "Long live Sadr" and "America and the (Governing) Council are atheists".

A banner on the mosque wall read: "No, No to the Great Satan America".

Militia members armed with shoulder-held rocket launchers and rocket-propelled grenades manned checkpoints amid tight security in Kufa.

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