The New York Times reports: Iraq’s most influential Shiite cleric, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, issued a statement on Friday calling on Iraq’s diverse political parties to move quickly to form a government. He also again clarified that his call for volunteers to defend Iraq against extremist jihadis was not meant as a call to arms for Shiites, but for all Iraqis.
The statement, issued at Friday Prayer in the Shiite holy city of Karbala, was conveyed by Ahmed al-Safi, a leading Shiite cleric and the Sistani representative there.
Mr. Safi said that all political blocs should stick to the timing required in the Constitution to convene a new Parliament by July 2. In the past, government formations have often taken much longer. “The winning bloc should hold dialogue in order to form an effective government that enjoys wide national acceptance to correct the past mistakes and open new horizons for Iraqis for a better future,” Mr. Safi said.
The statement echoed the language used by opponents of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, calling for him to form a government that is accepted by Sunnis and Kurds. It was interpreted by some as an implicit criticism of Mr. Maliki’s government, but was no more strongly worded than previous statements from Ayatollah Sistani’s representatives. [Continue reading…]