Moqtada al-Sadr on Sunday ordered his fighters off the streets of Basra and other cities in an effort to end fighting, as Iraq's Foreign Minister in Damascus expressed reservations about the final resolution from the Arab Summit.
In a statement released by Sadr's headquarters in the holy city of Najaf, the Shiite leader said: "We want the Iraqi people to stop this bloodshed and maintain Iraq's independence and stability. For that we have decided to withdraw arms from the streets of Basra and all other provinces."
Sadr said he took the decision as it was his "legitimate responsibility to stop the bleeding of Iraqis, to maintain the reputation of Iraqi people, the unity of land and people, to prepare for its independence and liberation from the dark forces and to quell the fire of division by the occupier and its followers."
Sadr's latest call came after six days of fighting between Shiite fighters and Iraqi forces in the southern city of Basra, Baghdad and several other Shiite regions.
The clashes erupted on Tuesday when prime minister Nouri al-Maliki launched an assault on Shiite militiamen in Basra. The firefights across Iraq have killed more than 270 people, mostly in Basra and Baghdad.
Meanwhile, at an Arab summit in the Syrian capital, Iraq criticized fellow Arabs for not expressing support for its U.S.-backed government.
The final declaration of the summit of 22 Arab states urged national reconciliation in Iraq and an end to fighting between Shiite militiamen and U.S.-backed Iraqi forces in Iraq's southern city in Basra.
But the declaration did not condemn insurgent attacks, which Iraq regards as terrorism, or mention the elected government in Baghdad.
Iraq registered its reservations at the end of the summit over articles in the declaration pertaining to Iraq.
Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari told Reuters that Iraq considered the paragraph concerning Iraq "not positive" and asked the Arab league to rephrase it.
"We want the declaration to support the authority of the Iraqi state, the rule of law and our efforts to achieve security, stability and defeat terrorism," Zebari said.
"We are looking for the Arab League to affirm positions it had already taken on supporting the Iraqi government, and not to take a neutral position in the declaration," Zebari said.
Iraqi Vice President Adel Abdul-Mehdi led his country's delegation at the summit after Maliki became embroiled in the military campaign against fighters loyal to Sadr in Basra.