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Wednesday, April 16

Mich. imams call on U.S. to stop chaos in Iraq

By Darci McConnell | The Detroit News

DEARBORN, Mich. - Despite the Bush administration's pledge to have Iraqis run their own nation as soon as possible, terror and chaos are impeding any push toward democracy, a group of Shiite Muslim religious leaders said Wednesday.

Imams from mosques throughout southeast Michigan called on President Bush to have his soldiers find and free Shiites who were imprisoned by Saddam Hussein's regime and better protect religious leaders and buildings. Bush should also limit the time the U.S. military stays in Iraq, they said. "We hold the American troops responsible for this chaos and this order. We also demand that once the job of our troops is finished, (the United States) must help the Iraqi people to have their own interim government,'' said Imam Hassan Qazwini of the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn. ``After that, we expect them to leave as soon as possible, or it will be viewed as occupation, not liberation.''

The comments came a day after Bush offered reassurances that Iraqis will run their own government as soon as possible.

The clerics were most concerned about the southern Iraqi city of Najaf, where Shiite leader Abdul Majid al-Khoei was killed last week and where a hostile group surrounded the home of Ayatollah Ali Sistani.

The religious leaders, who serve an Iraqi Shiite population of about 30,000 in Detroit, also chastised U.S. military forces and their allies for focusing their security efforts on the Baghdad headquarters of Iraq's oil ministry while countless buildings, including the antiquities museum and the national library, were being looted.

They complained that there has been no comparable search for thousands of imprisoned anti-Saddam Iraqis as there has been to find American prisoners of war.

``We have thousands of Iraqi freedom fighters who are prisoners under Saddam,'' said Imam Husham Al-Husainy of the Karbala Center in Dearborn. ``There is no food. There is no electricity. There is no water. None of these prisoners have been discovered yet.''

The religious leaders also plan to express their concerns during a meeting with Bush administration officials Thursday, said Al-Husainy, who is also a top figure among Shiite leaders in southern Iraq.