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Al-Sistani may push withdrawal

Sat., Oct. 29, 2005

NAJAF, Iraq – Iraq’s top Shiite cleric is considering demanding a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. and foreign troops after a democratically elected government takes office next year, according to associates of the Iranian-born cleric.

If the Americans and their coalition partners do not comply, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani would use peaceful means such as mass street protests to step up pressure for a pullout schedule, according to two associates of the cleric.

The associates spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the media. They are in regular contact with al-Sistani and call routinely on the 76-year-old cleric at his home in the holy city of Najaf south of Baghdad.


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