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Moqtada al-Sadr
Photo: AFP
Radical anti-US cleric Sadr resurfaces in Turkey
After two years underground, extremist Shiite leader appears in Ankara for personal meetings with President Abdullah Gul, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Talks said to focus on internal security
Iraq's Shiite radical leader Moqtada al-Sadr – not seen in public for nearly two years – held face-to-face talks with Turkey's top two leaders Friday, the Anatolia news agency reported.

 

The anti-US cleric met with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan first for talks on "security in Iraq and the promotion of links between the parties," according to a Turkish diplomatic source.

 

He was then entertained by President Abdullah Gul at the president's residence, the agency added, with the Turkish foreign ministry's special Iraq envoy, Murat Ozcelik, also in attendance, but no statements were made.

 

Turkey's leaders regularly host the leaders of diverse political groupings from its close neighbor state.

 

"He is going from Iran to Turkey to meet a delegation from (the Iraqi shrine city of) Najaf and to hold discussions with the Turkish side about the situation in Iraq and its future," senior Sadr aide Haidar al-Turfi earlier told AFP.

 

Turfi is the first senior official from Sadr's movement to directly confirm that Sadr has been in Iran. His followers have always said he was in hiding in Iraq, while the US military has long said he was living in Iran.

 

On Thursday, Anatolia cited unnamed diplomatic sources as saying that Sadr's visit was aimed at "holding consultations on the political process in Iraq."

 

Sadr, said to be aged in his 30s, gained wide popularity among Shiites in Iraq in the months after the US-led invasion of 2003 and in 2004 his Mahdi Army militia battled US troops in two bloody revolts.

 

He disappeared after a public appearance at an Iraqi mosque in June 2007 and has since issued statements through senior aides and spokesmen.

 

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