BAGHDAD, July 30 (UPI) -- Members of the Sadrist party loyal to anti-American cleric Moqtada Sadr denied that Iran barred the Shiite firebrand from visiting Erbil, sources said.
Sadr resurfaced in Damascus last week following an extended seclusion in the Iranian holy city of Qom where he is believed to be carrying out his clerical studies.
The firebrand cleric during meetings with top Iraqi leaders in Damascus praised his "brothers" in the Iraqiya slate of former interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.
Allawi led his Iraqiya slate to a narrow victory in March 7 elections but lacked the clear majority needed to form a new government alone.
London's pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat reports that "an informed source" said Iran is pressuring influential figures in Iraq to give Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki another term in office.
Tehran warned Sadr not to head to Erbil in northern Iraq after the Damascus trip "because he was getting close to Iraqiya," the source said.
Anonymous Sadrist officials denied that Iran could influence national trends in neighboring Iraq.
"Even if there are American or Iranian agendas inside the country, they will not be at the expense of the national ones," the Sadrist source said.