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Top Cleric Al-Sistani Calls for New Government in Iraq

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).

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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.

Iraq: Lines in the Sand 1:45

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- The Associated Press