"The commander of the Sadr movement, leader Muqtada al-Sadr, announced today in Najaf the end of all fighting [throughout] Iraq and the integration of his movement in the political process," Shaikh Naaim al-Qaabi said on Monday. 

Al-Sadr has in recent weeks spearheaded the largest resistance against US occupation and interim Iraqi government forces since the fall of Saddam Hussein last year. 

"This decision shows that the al-Sadr movement wants peace and participation in the country's political process, and within the next two days the al-Sadr movement will explain its political vision on this participation," al-Qaabi said.

"The Sadr movement is the largest in Iraq because it has wide popular support and we are sure it will play an important part in the country's political life," he added.

The announcement came amid negotiations between interim Iraqi government officials, US occupation commanders and al-Sadr's office to stop the fighting in the rest of the country after a peace deal ended weeks of clashes in the towns of Najaf and Kufa on Friday.

Appeals for the government

Speaking to Aljazeera from Najaf, Shaikh Ali Simaism, the political representative of al-Sadr's office said:

"We call on the Mahdi Army fighters to cease fire unless in self-defence"

Shaikh Ali Simaism,
al-Sadr political representative

"We call on the Iraqi government to be patient and self-possessed. We call on it to pull out occupation forces and Iraqi army from the centres of the cities. At the same time, we call on the Mahdi Army fighters to cease fire unless in self-defence."

Simaism added they were seeking to activate al-Sistani's initiative and were preparing to announce a major political programme.

When asked about the ceasefire in Sadr City and the handover of the al-Mahdi Army's arms, he said: "Najaf is now calm and there is no exchange of fire and we hope that calmness will prevail in all Iraqi cities."

Commenting on al-Sadr's readiness to hand over the al-Mahdi Army's arms, Simaism said: "[Handover] will be announced in the right time."