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Sunni Clerics Urge Iraqis To Join Army, Police

Iraqi police graduating (file photo) 1 April 2005 -- Leading clerics from Iraq's Sunni Muslim minority called today on their followers to join the country's police and army.

The statement by 64 clerics calls the Iraqi military -- and not private militias or parties -- the true safeguard of the nation. Until now, Sunni clerics had often lashed out against the heavily Shi'ite- and Kurdish-dominated Iraqi security forces, branding them collaborators with the Americans.

Iraq's Sunnis largely boycotted recent national elections. But they have seen themselves marginalized politically, and some former Sunni officers are believed to be leading the insurgency.

Meanwhile, Shi'a spiritual leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani also urged Shi'ites to cooperate with the security services. Al-Sistani has often denounced revenge killings by Shi'ites against Sunni insurgents.