SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Nation/World

June 21, 2014

Top Shiite cleric calls for new government in Iraq

BAGHDAD — The spiritual leader of Iraq’s Shiite majority called for a new, “effective” government Friday, increasing pressure on the country’s prime minister a day after U.S. President Barack Obama challenged him to create a more inclusive leadership or risk a sectarian civil war.

Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani’s comments at Friday prayers contained thinly veiled criticism that Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, in office since 2006, was to blame for the nation’s crisis over the blitz by Sunni insurgents led by an al-Qaida splinter group that seeks to create a new state spanning parts of Iraq and Syria and ruled by its strict interpretation of Islamic law.

Al-Sistani’s remarks come as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to travel to Iraq soon to press its government to share more power.

While al-Maliki’s State of Law bloc won the most seats in parliament in the Iraq’s April 30 election, his hopes for a third term are now in doubt with rivals challenging him from within the broader Shiite alliance. In order to govern, his bloc must first form a coalition with other parties.

And with Iraq asking the U.S. for airstrikes to temper the militants’ advance — especially as the insurgents were said to be preparing Friday for another assault on the country’s biggest oil refinery — al-Maliki appears increasingly vulnerable.

“It is necessary for the winning political blocs to start 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,” al-Sisanti said in a message delivered by his representative Ahmed al-Safi in the Shiite holy city of Karbala.

The Iranian-born al-Sistani, who is believed to be 86, lives in the Shiite holy city of Najaf south of Baghdad. A recluse, he rarely ventures out of his home and does not give interviews. Iraq’s majority Shiites deeply revere him, and a call to arms he made last week prompted thousands of Shiites to volunteer to fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which was once part of al-Qaida.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Nation/World

Local News
  • Fight brewing over Salem State garage

    SALEM -- Salem State's plans for a new parking garage are encountering resistance from people who live near the proposed site and say the structure will shrink nearby property values, create traffic problems and have other detrimental effects. Opposi

    August 21, 2014 3 Stories

  • bozo Last laugh BEVERLY -- When it comes to famous clients, it's tough to top Oprah. But to baby boomers of a certain age, Bozo the Clown might qualify as a pretty good second act. Kaminski Auctions, the Beverly company that sold off Oprah Winfrey items last year, i

    August 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • 140813_SN_DLE_COPAA1 ‘Limbitless possibilities’: Amputees find solace with new support group

    Those in a new support group for amputees say overcoming the emotional trauma of losing a limb can be tougher to overcome than the physical battle of healing and learning to use a prosthetic. "When you lose a limb, you go through physical changes, bu

    August 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Margo Danvers cyclist conquers Mount Washington in honor of biking friends killed by motorist

    DANVERS -- Margo Heigh of Danvers braved the cold, wind and steep grades to ride up Mt. Washington on her bike in Saturday's 42nd annual Mount Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb. She did so to honor the memory of two cycling friends killed last y

    August 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Extended day at Collins to offer variety of enrichment classes SALEM -- This school year, students at Collins Middle School will be able to end their day studying robotics, karate, journalism, music, flag football or any of the other 32 enrichment courses that have been added to the curriculum. A block of time e

    August 21, 2014