NEWS: Abdel Aziz al-Hakim throws down the gauntlet

Leading Shiite politician calls for total US withdrawal from Iraq

A key Shiite member of Iraq’s ruling coalition called Saturday for the complete withdrawal of foreign troops from his country and rejected the possibility of permanent bases.

Ammar Hakim, a leading figure of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC), told a gathering celebrating the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr: “We will work not to have fixed bases for foreign troops on Iraqi lands.”

He also called on American forces to be more careful in their use of force after recent bombings killed civilians in a Shiite village north of Baghdad and in a Sunni area northwest of the Iraqi capital. [complete article]

Son of Shiite leader backs federalism

The Shiite heir apparent to a key U.S. political ally added his voice Saturday to calls for the division of Iraq into semiautonomous regions based on sect and ethnicity, throwing down a gauntlet on an issue that has stirred fierce emotions in Iraq.

Ammar Hakim’s appeal before hundreds of supporters gathered for prayers marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan came just weeks after passage of a nonbinding U.S. Senate resolution calling for a devolution of power to three self-governing regions — for Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds. [complete article]

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