BAGHDAD, Oct. 6 — Two powerful Shiite leaders, the clerics Moktada al-Sadr and Abdul Aziz Hakim, announced a peace agreement Saturday aimed at ending frequent gun battles between their followers.
The agreement was a positive sign for the government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki because support from the political wings of both men's organizations is seen as necessary to avoid a vote of no confidence in Parliament. Though both groups are in the government, violence between Mr. Sadr's militia, the Mahdi Army, and the armed wing of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, led by Mr. Hakim, has simmered in southern Iraq for four years. It was not clear how far the agreement would go toward ending the fighting.
In the agreement, the two men signed off on three broadly worded points, Liwa Smeism, a political aide to Mr. Sadr, said in a telephone interview. They called for a cease-fire, an end to negative propaganda in the news media and the formation of joint committees in the provinces to mediate disputes, Mr. Smeism said.
Violence between Shiite groups has continued to escalate in the southern city of Basra, where the Sadrists, the Supreme Council and other Shiite parties are vying for dominance after British troops withdrew from their base in the city center.