Last updated: August 14, 2017
Influential Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has visited the United Arab Emirates, its official news agency said Monday, his second trip in weeks to a Sunni-ruled Gulf country after Saudi Arabia.
Late Sunday, Sadr met Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, who congratulated Iraq on its victory against the Islamic State group in Mosul last month, WAM said.
Sheikh Mohammed said he hoped Iraq would “regain the role it deserves among Arab countries”.
“The prosperity of Iraq reinforces the security of the Arabs,” WAM reported Sheikh Mohammed as saying.
“Experience has taught us to call for what unites us as Arabs and Muslims, and banish partisans of discord and division,” he said.
Earlier this month, Sadr called on the Baghdad government to dismantle the Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary group, which is dominated by Iran-backed Shiite militias and has played a major role in the fight against IS.
He has also called on the authorities to “seize the arsenal of all armed groups”.
Sadr’s visit to the UAE comes after he made a rare journey to Saudi Arabia at the end of July.
Saudi Arabia and Iraq went a quarter century without diplomatic relations, which were cut following Saddam Hussein’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
But both countries hailed an improvement in ties in June when Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi visited the kingdom.
Sadr led a militia that fought against the US occupation of Iraq.
He is now seen as a nationalist who has repeatedly called for protests against corruption in the Iraqi government. His supporters have staged huge demonstrations in Baghdad calling for electoral reform.