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Radical cleric Sadr in Turkey for talks with leaders

Latest update : 2009-05-01

Iraq's Shiite radical leader Moqtada al-Sadr - not seen in public for nearly two years - held face-to-face talks on Friday with Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Abdullah Gul, Anatolia news agency reported.

AFP - Iraq's Shiite radical leader Moqtada al-Sadr -- not seen in public for nearly two years -- held face-to-face talks Friday with Turkey's top two leaders, Anatolia news agency reported.
  
The anti-US cleric met with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan first for talks on "security in Iraq and the promotion of links between the parties," according to a Turkish diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity.
  
He was then entertained by President Abdullah Gul at the president's residence, the agency added, with the Turkish foreign ministry's special Iraq envoy, Murat Ozcelik, also in attendance, but no statements were made.
  
Turkey's leaders regularly host the leaders of diverse political groupings from its close neighbour state.
  
"He is going from Iran to Turkey to meet a delegation from (the Iraqi shrine city of) Najaf and to hold discussions with the Turkish side about the situation in Iraq and its future," senior Sadr aide Haidar al-Turfi earlier told AFP.
  
Turfi is the first senior official from Sadr's movement to say directly that Sadr has been in Iran.
  
His followers have always said he was in hiding in Iraq, while the US military has long said he was living in Iran.
  
Sadr was to travel with several senior figures from his movement, after an earlier delegation went to Ankara six months ago to lay the groundwork for the trip, Turfi added.
  
On Thursday, Anatolia cited unnamed diplomatic sources as saying that Sadr's visit was aimed at "holding consultations on the political process in Iraq."
  
Sadr, said to be aged in his 30s, gained wide popularity among Shiites in Iraq in the months after the US-led invasion of 2003 and in 2004 his Mahdi Army militia battled US troops in two bloody revolts.
  
But he disappeared after a public appearance at an Iraqi mosque in June 2007 and has since issued statements through senior aides and spokesmen.
  
In August 2008, he suspended the activities of his Mahdi Army, which once numbered in the tens of thousands, following major US and Iraqi assaults on its strongholds in Baghdad and southern Iraq in the spring of that year.

Date created : 2009-05-01

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