KARBALA, Iraq, June 20 (UPI) -- Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's leading Shiite cleric, called for formation of a new and inclusive government in Iraq Friday.
His statement Friday followed similar suggestions by opponents of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, and was interpreted by some as a recommendation that Maliki be removed from office, but was no more strongly worded than previous pronouncements. The Ayatollah also clarified his call for volunteers, earlier in the week, to defend Baghdad from insurgents who have overtaken much of the country and are believed to be planning an invasion of the capital; his summons was meant for all Iraqis, he said, and not restricted to Shiites.
His representative in the holy city of Karbala, Amhed al-Safi, said all political groups in Iraq should abide by the Constitution and convene Parliament by Jul. 2, adding, "The winning bloc should hold dialogue in order to form an effective government that enjoys wide national acceptance to correct the past mistakes and open new horizons for Iraqis for a better future."
U.S. President Barack Obama offered similar advice Thursday.
Maliki's political opponents have suggested a new government should be formed by someone better able to obtain support from all factions within Iraq, and it is speculated some American officials have been urging the same.