Baghdad, Iraq: Iraqi Shia cleric and firebrand political Muqtada al-Sadr has congratulated Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani for re-election, but urged the Islamic republic to end regional policies of “negative” impacts.
“We congratulate the Iranian people for the victory of their reformist, moderate candidate despite the fervent political rivalry,” Sadr said in a statement.
He, however, urged the Iranian government to “steer away from all kinds of policy that negatively affect the region,” adding that “the situation can bear no more,’ as he put it.
He also urged Tehran to adopt openness to regional countries which he did not identify, and to “give up political and sectarian wrangles”.
Sadr’s statement came hours after Rouhani, in office since August 2013, was declared winner in the presidential elections, beating conservative opponent Ibrahim Raisi by more than 57 percent of votes.
Sadr has made an earlier call for Iran last week to seek better relations with its arch regional rival, Saudi Arabia, calling on both to engage in a “serious dialogue” to avert what he labelled a “sectarian war”.
“We hope this is the beginning of a de-escalation of sectarian tensions in the Arab and Muslim region,” he said of the recommended rapprochement between Tehran and Riyadh.
Sadr, though leading a wide base of Shia supporters, has been a vocal critic of the Iran-backed government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and his predecessor, Nuri al-Maliki, a close ally with Tehran. He has championed pro-reform and anti-corruption protests in Baghdad over the past few months.
Iran’s critics say it practices influence on Iraqi politics through the Shia-led government, and accuse it of meddling into regional conflicts in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and some Gulf countries for the favor of Shia minorities and majorities in those countries.