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Iraqi Shi'ite leader visits UAE, strengthening ties with Sunni states

Iraqi Shi'ite leader visits UAE, strengthening ties with Sunni states
From Reuters - August 13, 2017

ERBIL, Iraq,(Reuters) - An influential Iraqi Shi'ite cleric plans to visit the United Arab Emirates on Sunday, strengthening his ties with Sunni-ruled states of the Middle East.

It will be the second such trip in as many months for Moqtada al-Sadr, who commands a large following among Iraq's urban poor. He visited Saudi Arabia at the end of July.

The Emirati government will send a special plane to fly Sadr to the UAE and return him to Iraq, according to a statement on the cleric's website.

The cleric is one of few Iraqi Shi'ite leaders to keep some distance from Shi'ite Iran, Saudi Arabia's regional rival and the mainbacker of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. In April, Sadr called on Assad to "take a historic heroic decision" and step down, to spare his country further bloodshed.

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