BAGHDAD, Iraq – The Iraqi government has welcomed an order by Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to pull his fighters off the streets.
Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh told FOX News that the decision is "positive and responsive."
Al-Dabbagh said the move would "help the government confront those who are violating the law" and that it would help to "isolate those who are trying to destroy the government effort".
He said Iraqi security operations in Basra would not end until the "criminal elements" operating there are removed.
Also praising al-Sadr's orders was Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who said it was "a step in the right direction."
Al-Sadr ordered those loyal to him and his Mahdi Army Sunday off the streets in Basra and cities across Iraq, saying that whoever carries arms against Iraqi forces is not one of his followers.
Al-Sadr also called on the government to stop what he calls haphazard raids and release security detainees who haven't been charged.
Sunday's offer was contained in a nine-point statement issued by his headquarters in Najaf.
Al-Sadr is demanding that the government issue a general amnesty and release all detainees. The statement said he also "disavows" anyone who carries weapons and targets government institutions, charities and political party offices.
Clashes between the government and al-Sadr's supporters came to a head after hundreds of arrests by U.S. and Iraqi forces of al-Sadr supporters that U.S. commanders say are members of Iran-linked cells attacking American soldiers.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.