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Al-Sistani Heading To London For Heart Treatment

6 August 2004 -- Iraq's leading Shi'a cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, is today on his way to London for heart treatment.

Airport security officials in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, said al-Sistani arrived on a chartered jet from Iraq and later left for London on a regularly scheduled airline flight.

Al-Sistani's spokesman in Beirut, Sheikh Hamed Khafaf, said the cleric suffered a "health crisis related to his heart" a few days ago, and was going to London for specialized medical care. The spokesman said that al-Sistani was not in a "deteriorated state."

As the top religious figure for Iraq's Shi'a Muslim majority, the 73-year-old al-Sistani is a powerful figure in Iraqi politics. UN and other officials have regularly sought his support on their policy proposals for Iraq.