"British Prime Minister Tony Blair thanked Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi Thursday for Iran`s continuing cooperation with regard to Iraq."
I'm going to hope that he's just being diplomatic.
Sadr shakes Shia hierarchy
NAJAF: Firebrand cleric Moqtada al-Sadr upsets Iraq's Shia religious hierarchy almost as much as he annoys US-led occupation forces. Sadr, holed up in Najaf , is a headache for top Shia clerics who worry that his presence might provoke a US military assault on one of Shia's holiest cities.
The Shia hierarchy based in Najaf desperately needs to settle the crisis over Sadr, whose uprising implicitly challenges their power and threatens their policy of promoting Shia power in postwar Iraq by peaceful means.
US-led forces have rolled back this month's revolt by Sadr's Mehdi Army militia in many southern towns, but know bloodshed in Najaf might enrage the Shia majority or deter it from cooperating in US plans for Iraq's political future.
"We feel it's stable down there. We're not going to conduct provocative operations down there," a senior military official in Baghdad said of the Najaf standoff on Thursday. British officials say the idea is to let senior Shia clerics take the lead in resolving the impasse.
Under one proposal, Sadr, who is wanted in connection with the murder of a moderate Shia cleric in Najaf last year, could give himself up to Iraqi religious or other authorities to face trial after the occupation formally ends on June 30.
The officials say US-led authorities could accept this, provided the Mehdi Army militia disarms. Top Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani had expanded his already considerable influence in recent months.
Time and again he has forced Washington to revise plans that fell short of his demands for early direct elections for a government reflecting the numerical strength of Iraq's 60 per cent Shia majority for the first time in modern history.
VOICE FOR MODERATION: While extracting political concessions from Washington, Sistani and other top clerics have urged Shias to shun anti-US violence such as that adopted by Sunni insurgents.
Now Sistani and other senior clerics are under fire from some voices within their own community for failing to confront Sadr decisively or even criticize him publicly. Sistani commands no militia or political party, but has a traditional following which eclipses that of his upstart rival, whose powerbase is among the young, poor and deprived.
"The ayatollah doesn't believe in militias, but he could easily have called on his supporters to confront the Mehdi militia," said one cleric close to Sistani. Last year Sistani's followers drove Sadr's men out of Karbala when they tried to occupy that city's holy shrines.
Yet with talks under way on a transitional government to take power on June 30, Sistani and mainstream Shia politicians want to avoid any violence that would damage the image of communal unity they seek to project.
So clerics, including Sistani's son and adviser Mohammed Riza, met Sadr last week to press him to seek a negotiated settlement with the US-led administration. In Najaf's dusty alleys, clerics and laymen debate the crisis. Some blame Sistani as well as Sadr and the Americans.
"It's all Ayatollah Sistani's fault. He should have bluntly opposed Sadr, who is leading our community into a disastrous confrontation," said a seminary student chatting to other clerics in a small bookshop.
It makes them furious to watch Sadr's ragtag militiamen patrolling streets near the homes of top clerics or stopping and searching men, women and even bearded religious scholars. -Reuters http://www.hipakistan.com/en/detail.php?newsId=en62442&F_catID=&f_type=source
Comment: Sadr will soon be gone.