London: A top Iraqi Shiite militia leader predicted Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki's government was nearing its end because it has been tainted by its close work with American forces, a British newspaper reported on Monday.
Cleric Moqtada Al Sadr told The Independent newspaper that Al Maliki's government was on the brink of collapse, despite efforts to bolster its base of support.
"Al Maliki's government will not survive because he has proven that he will not work with important elements of the Iraqi people," the cleric was quoted by the newspaper as saying.
"The prime minister is a tool for the Americans, and people see that clearly. It will probably be the Americans who decide to change him when they realise he has failed. We don't have a democracy here, we have a foreign occupation."
Al Sadr had been among Al Maliki's strongest supporters.
Early this year, Al Sadr agreed to government appeals to tone down his anti-American rhetoric and not directly challenge the waves of US soldiers trying to regain control of Baghdad.
However, he broke with Al Maliki, a fellow Shiite, in April and withdrew his five supporters from the Iraqi Cabinet to protest the prime minister's refusal to demand a timetable for the pullout of US forces from Iraq.
During the interview, conducted in the southern Iraqi city of Kufa, Al Sadr also declared that British forces had been defeated in Iraq and would be forced to pull out sooner than they planned.
He said resistance and a rising death toll among troops had forced a withdrawal.
"The British have given up and they know they will be leaving Iraq soon," Al Sadr was quoted as saying. "They are retreating because of the resistance they have faced. Without that, they would have stayed for much longer, there is no doubt."