Talabani: No plans to oust Maliki

Feb. 9, 2008 at 8:43 PM

NAJAF, Iraq, Feb. 9 (UPI) -- Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, after meeting with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, said top Iraqi clerics do not plan to replace Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Talabani traveled to Najaf, the Shiite holy city 100 miles south of Baghdad, for discussions with the Marjaia, the country's most senior clerics, The New York Times reported.

"There is a deal on keeping the prime minister, changing the ministers and reducing the number of ministries by half," Talabani said.

The president, a Kurd, said he and other leaders are trying to put together a coalition government that would represent Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds. Political progress has been slow despite the reduction in violence following the change early last year in U.S. tactics, and tensions within the Shiite and Sunni communities have been on the rise.

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