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Iraq Sunni, Shiite clerics to urge unity

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, Oct. 19 (UPI) -- Iraqi Sunni and Shiite clerics agreed on a draft document barring sectarian killing, displacement, and aggression on Muslim and non-Muslim worship places.

The "Mecca Document," which calls for narrowing the gap between Sunnis and Shiites, warned against the "great dangers of committing sectarian crimes" that place Iraq on the edge of an all-out civil war.

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The document's draft, which was secured by United Press International Thursday, includes 10 clauses backed by Koranic verses and explanations, calling basically for ending the bloodbath in Iraq.

The document stressed "the vital necessity to adhere to national and Islamic unity and protect it against divisions and attempts to lodge a wedge among Iraqis."

It considered "sectarian crimes as the greatest evil barred by the Koran" and rejected exchange of accusations and slander between Sunnis and Shiites.

The document also called for releasing innocent prisoners and all hostages, be them Muslims or non-Muslims, and returning all displaced Iraqis to their original homes.

The Iraqi clerics also urged the Iraqi government "to release innocent prisoners and secure honest and just trial for criminal suspects in addition to imposing harsh sentences to act as a deterrent for others.

"Sunnis and Shiites should stand in the same rank for the sake of Iraq's independence, unity and territorial integrity and work together on ending foreign occupation and rebuilding the country's economic, political and military capacities with the aim of securing Iraq's independence," the draft said.

The Iraqi clerics are expected to hold meetings in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Thursday and Friday at the invitation of the Organization of Islamic Conference, which launched an urgent initiative aimed at putting an end to sectarian Sunni-Shiite strife in Iraq.

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