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Sadr extends ceasefire to boost political role
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A decision by Iraq's radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to extend a six-month ceasefire would facilitate his approach in the country's political process, Iraqi politicians and analysts said on Saturday.

"Sayyid Muqtada al-Sadr has ordered that the activities of the Mahdi Army will be suspended for another six months," Hazim al-Araji, a top aide for Sadr, read out the Sadr statement during the ceremony of Friday prayer in Kadhimiyah neighborhood in northern Baghdad.

The same declaration to freeze the Mahdi Army militia had earlier been sent to all Sadr offices to be read during ceremonies of Friday's weekly prayers in Shiite mosques all over the country.

The decision came as Iraq has seen some political progress over the past months and is expecting provincial elections planned for this fall.

"This declaration will give Muqtada al-Sadr the needed time for political gains, such as a better role in the country's political process," Salam al-Shamma, a senior Iraqi journalist, told Xinhua.

Sadr's party holds 30 seats in the parliament, second only to the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC). His opposition to the presence of foreign military in Iraq and the fierce combat between his military wing and the US troops once strengthened his political image.

Sadr, however, ordered a six-month ceasefire last August after his militia was accused of involving in a bloody clash with security troops during a pilgrimage in the holy city of Barbala.

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