Iraqi Officials Mark Deaths of Martyrs, Including Prominent Shi'ite Cleric

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05 July 2008

Iraq's political leaders struck a hopeful tone as they marked fiveyears since the killing of prominent Shi'ite cleric Ayatollah MohammedBaqir al-Hakim and dozens of

others in a car bombing in the holy cityof Najaf in 2003. VOA's Suzanne Presto reports from the northern cityof Irbil.

Iraq's prime minister and high-level officialsgathered in Baghdad on Saturday to commemorate Iraqis who have beenkilled in violence, particularly Ayatollah Hakim.  

In lateAugust of 2003, he and at least 80 worshippers were killed by a carbomb blast as they left a mosque after Friday prayers.

AyatollahHakim was the leader of the main Iraqi Shi'ite group opposed to SaddamHussein. He was 64 years old at the time of his death.  

Theayatollah was considered a relative moderate among the Shi'iteleadership, and he was sometimes criticized for allowing his followersto cooperate with the U.S. administration of Iraq.

Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told officials that cooperation and unity inside Iraq is leading to the nation's renewal.

Mr.Maliki said Iraq's government is in the midst of spring, which is aseason traditionally associated with birth and renewal. He said it isalso the spring of the Iraqi military's successful operations.

Themilitary has recently led campaigns to clear militants and armedcriminals from Basra in the south, Amarah in the southeast, Mosul inthe north, and eastern Baghdad's Sadr City.

The prime ministersaid these operations prove that all of Iraq is united under onenational government and for one national peace.  

Mr. Maliki stressed that the government will never stop battling outlaws, criminals and militants.

Thespeaker of the Iraqi Parliament, Mahmoud al-Mashadani, said the nationis now mourning its martyrs, but it will soon rejoice when all thebloodshed gives way to a new and great Iraq.

Mashadani vowed that Iraqis will be able to celebrate the glory of a new Iraq very soon.

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