The exciting conclusion to this morning’s epic. It’s big enough news to warrant its own post, but dicey enough — I can’t find one single story elsewhere on the wires to corroborate it — to warrant a chunk of salt. Would Sadr’s guys antagonize the clerical leadership by lying about what they said, though?

Iraq’s top Shiite religious leaders have told anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr not to disband his Mehdi Army, an al-Sadr spokesman said Monday amid fresh fighting in the militia’s Baghdad strongholds.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki demanded Sunday that the cleric disband his militia, which waged two uprisings against U.S. troops in 2004, or see his supporters barred from public office.

But al-Sadr spokesman Salah al-Obeidi said al-Sadr has consulted with Iraq’s Shiite clerical leadership “and they refused that.” He did not provide details of the talks.