Iraqi cleric urges politicians to solve crisis

AP News
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Posted: Feb 03, 2012 9:23 AM
Iraqi cleric urges politicians to solve crisis

Iraq's most prominent Shiite cleric has urged politicians to make concessions to solve the country's ongoing political crisis, an aide to the leader said on Friday.

Ahmed al-Safi, who often speaks for Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, said that the cleric believed that Iraq's leaders are taking the country "into the unknown."

"Politicians must work fast and make concessions to solve the crisis," al-Safi told worshippers during a Friday sermon in the holy city of Karbala.

Al-Sistani normally exerts his considerable influence through sermons and statements made by his aides.

Iraq's Shiite-led government has been paralyzed for the past two months by a political crisis that erupted after officials issued an arrest warrant for the Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi on terrorism charges.

The sectarian political fight brought government work to a standstill, just days after the U.S. completed its military withdrawal in mid-December.

The crisis was partially resolved when lawmakers from the country's largest Sunni-backed bloc ended a boycott of Parliament on Tuesday. However, the bloc's nine ministers, including those in charge of the finance and education portfolios, continue to boycott Cabinet meetings.

Also on Friday, two road accidents in the center and south of the country killed 19 people and left another 22 injured, police and health officials said.

In the first accident, 11 people were killed and 12 injured when a bus collided with a sports utility vehicle near Samarra, 60 miles (95 kilometers) north of Baghdad, said police Lt. Col. Ghayath Sami.

Another accident on a highway outside the city of Diwaniyah, 80 miles (130 kilometers) south of Baghdad, left eight dead and 10 injured, police and hospital officials said.

Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.