A radical Shiite cleric who led two major uprisings against American forces is now calling for Iraqis to exercise self-restraint and avoid violence. Meanwhile, insurgents killed six policemen and a government worker in six separate shootings across central Iraq, officials said.
In quotes taken from transcripts of an interview released by the BBC, Muqtada al-Sadr kept open the possibility of returning to armed resistance, but said Iraqis should not be provoked into violence. While condemning the U.S. presence in Iraq, he said that the U.S. "does not want confrontation."
Al-Sadr has called for an immediate withdrawal of U.S. and other coalition forces from Iraq and has opposed elections while Iraq is under "occupation."
"The occupation in itself is a problem," al-Sadr said in the BBC interview scheduled for broadcast Monday. "Iraq not being independent is the problem. And the other problems stem from that — from sectarianism to civil war, the entire American presence causes this."
In other developments:
The U.S. military reported Sunday that three of its soldiers had died in separate bombings over the weekend.
Iraq's interior minister said Monday that Syria was not taking serious steps to stop insurgents from crossing its border into Iraq, adding that he had pictures and addresses of insurgent leaders in Syria. Bayan Jabr, in an interview with The Associated Press, also indicated that he was not optimistic that Damascus would take measures to crack down on supporters of the insurgency on its territory.
Al Qaeda in Iraq reported that one of its "field commanders" had been killed by coalition forces in western Iraq, the terror group purportedly said in a statement posted on a Web site used by militants. The statement did not say when the man, Abi Salih al-Ansar, was killed. The posting's authenticity could not be verified.