Rebuke to Maliki as top Shia cleric calls for 'effective government' in Iraq
Iraq's most senior Shia cleric called yesterday for the formation of an "effective" government, adding to pressure on Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as fighting with the jihadist Isis group continued.
Mr Maliki, who comes from Iraq's Shia majority, is seeking a third term as premier after his bloc won the most seats in April's parliamentary elections.
However, his divisive style of government has been widely blamed for Iraq's crisis, which has seen militant Sunni groups take control of swathes of territory in the north.
A representative of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani delivered a statement calling for "a dialogue that yields an effective government that enjoys broad national support, avoids past mistakes and opens new horizons toward a better future for all Iraqis".
Ayatollah Sistani's word is effectively law among Iraq's Shias and the statement is seen as a rebuke to Mr Maliki.
Militants reportedly attacked the town of Muqdadiyah, north-east of Baghdad in Diyala province yesterday, sparking clashes that killed 30 Shia militiamen. Fighting also continued in the strategic northern town of Tal Afar.
Meanwhile, the head of Saddam Hussein's tribe denounced fellow Ba'athists for joining Iraq's jihadist-led uprising, saying the country's late dictator, a Sunni, would not have approved. Sheikh Hassan al-Nasseri said: "The people taking part in this fight are not true to the beliefs of Saddam or his Ba'ath party, which was a movement with principles and ideology. We have nothing to do with al-Qa'ida." In a seperate development last night UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned that any possible airstrikes against Sunni extremists in Iraq could be ineffective and backfire.
He urged Iraq's feuding communities to unite against the terrorists who have captured a vast swath of territory.
The UN chief also urged the Iraqi government and its supporters not to retaliate against Sunni communities in revenge for "barbaric attacks" by the al-Qa'ida-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. He warned that "military strikes might have little lasting effect, or even be counter-productive, if there is no movement towards inclusive government in Iraq." (© Daily Telegraph, London)