BAGHDAD -- The spiritual leader of Iraq's Shiite majority has called for the creation of a new, "effective" government, increasing pressure on the country's premier as an offensive by Sunni militants rages on.
Friday's call by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani 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 the al Qaeda-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).
Let our news meet your inbox. The news and stories that matters, delivered weekday mornings.
Sign up for breaking news alerts from NBC News
Sistani's message was delivered by his representative Ahmed al-Safi in the holy city of Karbala. He said the future government "should open new horizons toward a better future for all Iraqis." Maliki's Shiite-led government long has faced criticism of discriminating against Iraq's Sunni and Kurdish populations.
- The Associated Press