One of Iraq's top Shia leaders has called for a greater security role for the armed wing of his party, the Badr Organisation.
"In gratitude to the efforts, sacrifices and heroic positions of our brothers and brave sons from the Badr Organisation ... we must give them the priority in bearing administrative and government responsibilities especially in the security field," Abdul Aziz al-Hakim told a conference held in Baghdad on Wednesday to honour Badr.
"The forces of evil are trying very hard to sully the reputation of nationalist movements like Badr so that they can achieve goals that do not serve the interests of the Iraqi people," al-Hakim said at the gathering, which was attended by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.
Kurdish leader Talabani hailed the role of Badr in opposing former president Saddam Hussein's government alongside the peshmerga, the Kurdish guerrilla fighters.
"May those who describe the heroes of Badr and their Kurdish brothers as militia be doomed to failure," Talabani said.
"You and your [Kurdish] brothers are the heroes of liberating Iraq.
Talabani hailed the role of Badr in
opposing Hussein's government
"You, my brothers, march on without paying attention to the enemies' claims because you and the [Kurdish] peshmerga are faithful sons of this country," he added.
Talabani's remarks come amid calls for the disbanding of Iraq's militias, which were mostly formed as part of the struggle by exiled anti-Saddam Hussein opposition leaders prior to the April 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq.
The head of Iraq's influential Sunni group, the Association of Muslim Scholars, accused Badr in mid May of killing members of the once-dominant community.
"It is the Badr Organisation which is responsible for these killings. I take responsibility for what I am saying," Hareth al-Dhari had said.
Badr was formed by al-Hakim's brother Muhammad Baqer al-Hakim in the 1980s to fight the government of Hussein, receiving funding and backing from Iran.