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Shiite cleric calls for new government in Iraq

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BAGHDAD — The spiritual leader of Iraq’s Shiite majority called for a new, “effective” government today, increasing pressure on the country’s prime minister a day after U.S. President Barack Obama challenged him to create a more inclusive leadership or risk a sectarian civil war.

Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani’s comments at Friday prayers 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 Sunni insurgents led by an al-Qaida splinter group that seeks to create a new state spanning parts of Iraq and Syria and ruled by its strict interpretation of Islamic law.

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