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Top cleric asks Iraqis not to join anti-Qaeda fight

DUBAI (Reuters) - A top Iraqi Sunni cleric urged Iraqis on Friday not to join U.S.-led forces in fighting al Qaeda, saying they would be helping occupiers against compatriots.

“We reject the actions of al Qaeda but they are still part of us ... Ninety percent of al Qaeda are Iraqis,” Sheikh Harith al-Dari told Al Jazeera television. “It may be possible to hold a dialogue with them ... and God may help them return to reason.”

“From a national, Islamic and rational point of view, it is not allowed to fight alongside occupation forces,” said Dari, who heads Iraq’s Muslim Clerics Association.

But Dari, whose association groups Iraq’s Sunni religious leaders, said self-defence against any al Qaeda attacks was justified.

Jordan-based Dari has praised Sunni Muslim insurgent groups but denied direct links with them.

Some tribal and Sunni insurgent groups have joined the fight against al Qaeda, angered by its indiscriminate killings of civilians and harsh interpretation of Islam.