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Iraq Transition

Al-Sadr bloc: Ministers to quit government

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NEW: Al-Sadr to make good on threat to withdraw ministers from Iraq government
Anti-American cleric trying to press for earlier U.S. troop withdrawal
• Al-Sadr controls the ministries of Health, Agriculture, Transportation
• Al-Sadr: "PM Nuri al-Maliki did not respect the will of the Iraqi people"
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Anti-U.S. Shiite cleric and militia leader Muqtada al-Sadr will announce Monday the departure of his movement's six ministers from Iraq's government to press demands for the U.S. to leave Iraq, the bloc's spokesman Saleh al-Ageili told CNN.

The move makes good on a threat issued last week after Iraq's prime minister rejected a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S.-led troops, said al-Ageili.

Al-Sadr's stake in the government controls the ministries of Health, Agriculture, Province Affairs, Transportation, Tourism and Civil Society Organizations.

The withdrawal will not affect Sadr's 30 members of parliament, .

The powerful political movement boycotted Iraq's government for two months after Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki met with President Bush in November.

The movement rejoined the government in January after Iraqi parliament members said they would consider the group's demands, which include a timetable for U.S.-led coalition troop withdrawal and a United Nations assurance that troop deployment would not be extended.

Al-Sadr, widely popular in Iraq's Shiite heartland, opposes the U.S. occupation of Iraq and, during the war, his Mehdi Army militia has fiercely fought coalition and Iraqi forces.

Many opponents of the occupation have demanded a timetable for U.S. troop withdrawal, an issue heavily debated in the United States.

Al-Sadr's faction, which was instrumental in getting al-Maliki the prime minister's position last year, is part of the Shiite-led United Iraqi Alliance, the political bloc that holds sway in Iraq.

Speaking on Tuesday in Japan, al-Maliki said "achievements and victories" on the ground -- not timetables -- should determine the "departure of international forces" from his war-torn country.

"We are progressing on the security issue day by day because we are having security responsibility handed over to us continuously," al-Maliki said. "We see no need for a withdrawal timetable because we are working as fast as we can."

Reacting to al-Maliki's comments, al-Sadr's political committee issued a statement Wednesday warning its cabinet ministers might quit as a result.

"This decision has been taken because Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki did not respect the will of the Iraqi people who went on protest on April 9th demanding ... occupation forces to withdraw from Iraq," al-Ageili said.

CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report

Anti-U.S. Militia leader Muqtuda al-Sadr's six ministers in Iraq's government will quit Monday to press demands for a U.S. timetable on troop withdrawal.



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