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Iraq Shiite cleric says Sunni militants must be ousted

Published on Jun 21, 2014 11:01 AM
Members of the Iraqi security forces shout slogans as they carry weapons during clashes with Sunni militant group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Muqdadiyah in Diyala province on June 19, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

BAGHDAD (AFP) - Iraq's top Shiite cleric has urged all of its people to unite and expel Sunni Muslim insurgents, as Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki came under growing pressure at home and abroad.

The call came on Friday after US President Barack Obama stopped short of acceding to Mr Maliki's appeal for air strikes against militants, including the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), prompting neighbouring Shiite Iran to charge that Washington lacked the "will" to fight terror.

A swift militant offensive, led by the jihadist ISIL, has overrun swathes of northern and central Iraq, risking the United States' already damaged legacy there, displacing hundreds of thousands and threatening the country's very existence.

Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, a revered cleric among the Shiite majority, called on Iraqis to band together against the insurgents before it was too late. If ISIL is not "fought and expelled from Iraq, everyone will regret it tomorrow, when regret has no meaning", his spokesman announced on his behalf.

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