Iraqi Shiite Cleric Travels to UAE on Private Jet

After an unexpected trip to Saudi Arabia, influential Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has travelled to the United Arab Emirates on a private jet.

Sadr travelled on a private jet to Abu Dhabi on Sunday after being invited to make the rare visit to the Persian Gulf state, Sadr’s office said in a short statement.

The Sunday visit was the second by Sadr to the Emirates in as many months, Emirati paper The National reported. The aircraft was to fly Sadr back to Iraq upon the conclusion of the trip.

He talked with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Abu Dhabi’s crown prince, at a meeting also joined by Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed and other ranking officials.

A lawmaker close to the Sadrist movement told The New Arab that Sadr was invited to visit the UAE during his trip at the end of July to Riyadh, where he was promised $10 million to help rebuild Iraq.

The Saudis also awarded special visas to members of Sadr’s office for this year’s Hajj pilgrimage.

The cleric met with Saudi Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman in the Saudi port city of Jeddah on July 30.

Sadr, who enjoys a sizable grassroots following in Iraq, has been avowing views which clash with those of the central administration and, at points, even opting for direct opposition to the ruling authorities.

Last March, he started a sit-in inside Baghdad’s Green Zone to force the government to enact certain “reforms.” His supporters have also been holding several rallies in the Iraqi capital.

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