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Shiites call on prime minister to cancel U.S. visit but stakes too high
BAGHDAD, Iraq – The clerics are outraged. The Iraqi street is angry. And some Shiite politicians want Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to cancel his trip to Washington to protest the fighting in Lebanon.
Despite public anger, the Shiite political establishment has too much to lose politically by risking its ties with the Americans over the fate of Hezbollah – especially at a time when Iraq itself may be coming unglued.
On Saturday, the Fadhila party, which is part of al-Maliki's Shiite alliance, urged the prime minister to call off his visit, which includes a a meeting Tuesday at the White House with President Bush.
“Fadhila demands that the prime minister cancel his visit to the U.S. in solidarity with the Lebanese people and over what is going on there, the disasters due to the Zionist aggression amid international silence about these crimes,” party official Sheik Sabah al-Saiedi told The Associated Press.
Radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr issued a similar call Friday. And both Shiite and Sunni preachers railed against both Israel and its American backers during sermons Friday throughout the country.
Al-Maliki, a former Shiite opposition figure who lived for years in Syria, has promised to raise the issue of Lebanon during his talks with Bush and press the administration to work for a quick cease-fire.
“The hostile acts against Lebanon will have effects on the region and we are not far from what is going on in Lebanon,” al-Maliki said Saturday. “We will speak with the United Nations and American government to call for a cease-fire quickly.”