Moqtada al-Sadr, the rebel Shia Muslim cleric opposed to the occupation of Iraq, has called on all resistance organisations to unite and drive out foreign troops.
Sadr, who was targeted by the US during its “surge” of troops into Iraq, told his supporters in Kufa on Friday of last week, “We demand the withdrawal of the occupation forces, or the creation of a timetable for such a withdrawal.
“I call upon the Iraqi government not to extend the occupation, even for a single day.”
On 9 April up to one million Iraqis marched in the southern city of Najaf to demand an end to the occupation.
The demonstration, festooned with Iraqi flags rather than those of Shia Muslim parties, was timed to coincide with the opening of talks among resistance organisations.
A week later Sadr withdrew his ministers from the government after the prime minister Nouri al-Maliki refused to demand the withdrawal of US troops.
Sadr then joined Sunnis in opposing the building of “security walls” around Sunni Baghdad neighbourhoods and began to purge his organisation of those he said were involved in sectarian attacks.
Sadr’s Mehdi Army recently confronted Iraqi security forces and the US-backed Badr Brigades responsible for much of the sectarian murders.
The momentum for the dialogue among the resistance began when a senior member of Sadr’s organisation came into contact with Sunni resistance leaders in a US prison camp.
The predominantly nationalist resistance organisations have been recently fighting to drive out Al Qaida affiliated groups from areas under their control.
These groups have been accused of targeting Shia areas rather than occupation forces.
Sadr’s appeal to the resistance organisations in the predominantly Sunni regions has received a warm welcome from other resistance groups.
Abu Aja Naemi, a senior commander of the 1920 Revolution Brigades, one of the main nationalist organisations, confirmed that talks had taken place on the formation of a united front between Shia and Sunni groups.
On the day Sadr delivered his call for an end to the occupation, British troops gunned down Wisam Abu Qadir, the commander of the Mehdi Army in the southern city of Basra.
Since the killing, there have been waves of attacks on British bases. The US, meanwhile, has suffered its bloodiest month since November 2004, with over 113 soldiers killed in May.