As-Sadr wants to be a martyr.
BEIRUT (Reuters) – Shi’ite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, wanted by U.S.-led forces in Iraq, said Tuesday he was willing to die for his campaign to end their occupation.
But the radical preacher also appeared to leave the door open to negotiation, saying his only demand was to keep foreign troops out of the holy city of Najaf, where he himself is based.
“I am ready to sacrifice (myself) and I call on the people not to allow my death to cause the collapse of the fight for freedom and an end to the occupation,” Sadr told Lebanon’s al-Manar television, run by the Shi’ite Hizbollah group.
Sadr, whose Mehdi Army militia has confronted occupation forces including Polish, British and Italian troops, urged non-American soldiers to distance themselves from U.S. leadership “and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Iraqi people.”
U.S. commanders in Iraq have said they want Sadr dead or alive and have vowed to re-establish control over Najaf.
Sadr said he was in talks with Iraqi mediators to end the uprising — an apparent opening to a negotiated settlement.
But he rejected U.S. demands that he disband his militia and said foreign troops should stay out of Najaf: “My only demand for the time being is the liberation of…Najaf and the withdrawal of occupation forces from it,” he said.