AFP: Iran on Saturday declined to confirm reports that Iraqi Shiite radical leader Moqtada al-Sadr had taken refuge in the Islamic republic. TEHRAN (AFP) Iran on Saturday declined to confirm reports that Iraqi Shiite radical leader Moqtada al-Sadr had taken refuge in the Islamic republic.
“No, I do not confirm these reports. These things are said to divert attention from the occupying forces who are the source of insecurity in Iraq,” government spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham told reporters.
The US military in Iraq has frequently said that Sadr pays regular visits to Iran, although Iranian officials have always denied his presence on their soil.
News reports have also placed the radical cleric in Iran.
On Friday, Sadr called a mass rally in Baghdad for April 9 to demand the withdrawal of US troops on the fifth anniversary of the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.
The announcement came as Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki ordered his troops to halt raids on the cleric’s Shiite militiamen, following an almost week-long offensive on the Mahdi Army.
Iran had urged both sides to negotiate an end to the clashes that have killed hundreds of people across Iraq.
The United States accuses Iran of being a strong backer of the Mahdi Army, training its militiamen and shipping in armour-piercing weapons for attacks on US troops.
Iran has denied the charges and said that the best way to restore security in Iraq is for US-led coalition troops to pull out immediately.