Top Iraqi Cleric Calls for New Government

TIME

Iraq’s top Shi’ite spiritual leader called Friday for a new “effective” government, increasing the pressure on Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as he tries to beat back an assault by Sunni militants in northern Iraq.

Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani made the comments at Friday prayers a day after President Barack Obama said he would deploy military advisers and called on Maliki, a Shi‘ite in office since 2006, to create a more inclusive leadership. The Prime Minister’s critics say his favoritism toward Iraq’s Shi’ite majority, long oppressed under Saddam Hussein, has given rise to the renewed insurgency by the Sunni militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Al-Sistani’s comments, delivered by a representative in the Shi’ite holy city of Karbala, all but blamed Maliki for the crisis that began last week when militants seized Iraq’s second largest city and much of the north, the Associated Press reports.

“It is…

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