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Iraq's Top Shi'ite Cleric: 'Partition' Possible Without Reforms

Iraq's top Shi'ite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, has warned that the country will face many problems and could even split up if real reforms are not carried out.

Sistani, who has unmatched prestige in Iraq, has made several calls for reforms in recent weeks that were followed by wide-ranging changes and an anticorruption drive by Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi.

Sistani wrote to AFP on August 20 that "today, if true reform is not realized by fighting corruption without mercy and realizing social justice on different levels, it is expected that circumstances will become worse than before" and that Iraq could be "dragged to...partition."

Sistani said rampant corruption -- especially in the security forces -- and misuse of power by top officials had helped the Islamic State militant group to take over large parts of Iraq last year.

He blamed Iraqi politicians, many of whom Sistani said, "did not take the overall interest of the Iraqi people into consideration and were instead concerned with their personal interests, and factional, sectarian and ethnic" concerns.

Abadi announced a reform program this month in response to weeks of protests against corruption and poor services, as well as a call from Sistani for reforms.

Parliament quickly approved Abadi's plan.

Based on reporting by AFP