Muqtada al-Sadr. Photo: AP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region— Iraq’s influential cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has called on the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to relinquish power in the wake of the April chemical bombing that killed over 89 people and prompted US missile strikes. Washington has maintained that Syrian government warplanes carried out the chemical attacks.
Sadr is one of the few Shiite leaders in the region who have openly encouraged President Assad, a Shiite Allawi, to resign from office.
"I think it would be fair for President Bashar al-Assad to offer his resignation and step down in love for Syria, to spare it the woes of war and terrorism… and take a historic, heroic decision before it is too late," he said in a statement quoted by Reuters Monday.
The Shiite-led Iraqi government did not directly accuse Damascus of the deadly chemical attacks in Khan Sheikhun on April 4, but it condemned the chemical bombing and showed support for “any effort exerted by the international community to punish those who use these weapons," the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs said without naming Assad.
Iraq has struggled to maintain relations with the Syrian government while most Arab countries have suspended their diplomatic ties with Syria. Iraq has also abstained from voting to expel Syria from the League of Arab States and maintained its embassy in Damascus.
“Removing Bashar Assad or allowing him to remain in office is for the Syrian people to decide, but I believe that this is reasonable solution to end the conflict in the country and the miseries of its people,” he said.