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Iraq's Sistani Increases Pressure On Maliki To Step Aside

Shi'a carry a poster of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani as they rally outside the Al-Kholani Mosque in central Baghdad.

Iraq's top Shi'ite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, has said politicians who cling to their posts are making a "grave mistake" -- a message apparently meant to put pressure on Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki not to seek a third term.

Sistani on August 8 delivered his weekly Friday sermon through a spokesman in the sacred Shi'ite city of Karbala.

He urged Iraq's feuding political leaders to choose a prime minister who can end the security crisis posed by Islamic State militants.

Maliki is a member of Iraq's Shi'ite majority, and Sunnis, Kurds, and some fellow Shi'a accuse him of running a sectarian government, causing resentment that fed the Sunni insurgency.

He is negotiating to hold onto power for a third term after an inconclusive election in April.

U.S. President Barack Obama on August 7 said Iraq needed a government that "represents the legitimate interests of all Iraqis" to reverse the militants' momentum.

Based on reporting by Reuters and AP