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Al-Sadr gives first sermon in two months
by Al Jazeera
Friday Jul 23rd, 2004 10:06 AM
Iraqi Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr gave his first public sermon in nearly two months, saying he he will not allow any attack on neighbours Syria or Iran from Iraqi territory.

Al-Sadr was speaking during Friday prayers at the Kufa mosque, reported Aljazeera's correspondent Atwar Bahjat.

He also said that the captors of a South Korean hostage were not justified in beheading him.

The South Korean civilian was killed in June after Seoul refused his cators' demands to withdraw its troops from Iraq.

"If you knew politics and religion, you would not have cut off his head," said al-Sadr.

"There is no religion or religious law that punishes by beheading. True, they are your enemies and occupiers, but this does not justify cutting off their heads," al-Sadr said in Kufa, next to the southern Iraqi city of Najaf.

Harsh words

Al-Sadr also criticised Iraq's interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi amid a massive showing by his supporters.

The Shia leader questioned Allawi for reopening the Hawza newspaper - a pro-al-Sadr publication - after the interim leader closed it down.

"Damn him and damn the occupier," al-Sadr told the faithful, who swarmed into the grand mosque in Kufa, 150km south of Baghdad.

Allawi ordered on Sunday the lifting of a ban on al-Sadr's weekly paper that had been imposed by former US occupying administrator Paul Bremer at the end of March on accusations of instigating violence.

Al-Sadr's loyalists launched an uprising against occupation forces in March after Spanish troops opened fire on demonstrators protesting the closure of the paper and the detention of one of his deputies.

Bowing to pressure from Shia political and religious leaders, al-Sadr agreed to a truce in early June and since then he was largely absent from the public eye amid rumours that he may have left Iraq.

Nominee killed

In other news, retired Brigadier-General Salam Blaish was assassinated as he drove to Friday prayers in the northern city of Mosul, reported Aljazeera's correspondent.

Blaish's neighbour, who was travelling with him, was also killed in the attack.

Blaish was a nominee for a senior position in the new Iraqi army, according to Mosul residents.

Aljazeera + Agencies