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Muqtada al-Sadr (file photo) 25 August 2005 -- Radical Shi'ite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has called for an end to armed clashes between his followers and supporters of a rival Shi'ite group.

Speaking to reporters in his home in the city of Al-Najaf today, al-Sadr said Iraq is passing through a critical and difficult period that requires unity.

He also called on rival cleric Abdul Aziz al-Hakim to condemn "what his followers have done."

There are conflicting reports as to what sparked the fighting in Al-Najaf, which led to the burning of al-Sadr's office and reported death of between five and eight al-Sadr followers, according to Arab media reports. The fighting spread to Baghdad, Al-Basrah, Al-Nasiriyah, and other locations.

Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Ja'afari has appealed for calm and promised an investigation into the violence.

The unrest came as parliament was expected to vote today on a draft constitution. The draft is opposed by al-Sadr and Sunni Muslim groups.

(Reuters/AP)

See also:

Iraqi Premier Tries To Quell Violence

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