04/17/2007, 00.00
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Sadrist ministers quit in a move designed perhaps to help Mahdi army

Radical Shia clergyman orders his ministers to quit, demanding a timetable for US troop withdrawal. His MPs will stay on. For some analysts this is a move to halt US campaign against his militia and stop the latter’s rich pickings.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) – Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr may demand a timetable for U.S. troop withdrawal but his ‘Mahdi Army’ is accumulating money and power from raids and ransoms, this according to Iraqi experts who spoke following the resignation of six ministers from the radical Shia leader’s political movement when Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s refused to agree to such a timetable. Al-Sadr’s party can still count on 32 members of parliament, a quarter of all the seats of the ruling Shia Alliance.

The Sadrists had already boycotted parliament for two months back in January and February after Mr Maliki met US President George W. Bush in Amman, Jordan. This time however Sadrist lawmakers will not boycott the assembly.

Sadrist parliamentary leader Nassar al-Rubaie said that al-Sadr ordered the minister to leave the cabinet.

However, some observers don’t believe that the departure of Sadr's ministers will bring down Maliki's government, even if it is likely to cause tensions within the Shia camp where the mostly-Shia United Iraqi Alliance holds 130 seats (out of 275).

Iraqi analysts believe that Sadr’s move is meant to put pressure on the government which is backing the US push against its ethnic militia, the Mahdi Army. For the Americans Sadr’s armed group is the greatest threat Iraq faces.

Sadr is more interested in using his militia to accumulate wealth in raids and ransoms, they say. One third of all booty goes into Mahdi coffers, the rest to whoever carried out the action.

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