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Iraq’s Sadr calls for full US withdrawal

Head of Iraq’s Sadr movement, Muqtada al-Sadr, has called for the complete withdrawal of all American troops from the country by the end of the year.

Speaking in the holy city of Najaf on Wednesday, the cleric rejected any form of US presence in the country, as Washington and Baghdad are discussing keeping a limited number of US troops as military trainers in Iraq.

Sadr said the presence of US military trainers in Iraq beyond the Dec. 31 deadline is an ”organized occupation”.

He also dismissed any negotiation with the US before the full withdrawal of all foreign soldiers and the payment of compensation to the families of Iraqis killed by US troops.

Washington has been pressing Baghdad to agree to keep thousands of its troops beyond the 2011 deadline. It also wants the remaining troops to be granted immunity from prosecution.

There are currently about 4,700 US soldiers deployed in Iraq. According to a 2008 security accord, known as the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), all US troops are required to leave the country by the end of 2011.

Under pressure from Washington, Iraqi political leaders recently agreed to allow some of the US forces to stay longer for ‘training’ purposes, but refused to shield them from prosecution.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has also rejected the US proposal that 3,400 of the troops remain in the country, saying “we do not need such a large number.”

Over one million Iraqis have been killed in the US-led invasion and occupation of the country since 2003, according to the California-based investigative organization Project Censored.

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