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Iraq's top Shia cleric warns against outside influence

Iraqi protesters gather atop the abandoned "Turkish restaurant" building at Baghdad's Tahrir square during ongoing anti-government demonstrations on November 11, 2019. - The United States has urged Iraq to hold early polls and carry out electoral reform, after a rights group warned a deadly crackdown on anti-government protesters could spiral into a "bloodbath". Three protesters were shot dead in the southern city of Nasiriyah on November 10 while dozens of demonstrators were wounded in Baghdad. (Photo by SABAH ARAR / AFP) (Photo by SABAH ARAR/AFP via Getty Images)

Prominent Shia cleric Ali al-Sistani on Friday urged the formation of a new government away from outside interventions, Anadolu Agency reports.

In a statement read by his representative Abdul-Mahdi al-Karbalai during Friday sermon in Karbala province, the cleric said: “We hope that the selection of the new prime minister and his members come within the constitutional period and according to the aspirations of the Iraqi citizens away from any external interference — noting that — the religious reference is not a part in any discussion in this regard.”

According to Iraqi local media, Qasem Suleimani, the chief of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps arrived in Iraq to discuss the formation of the new government.

READ: Fears of clashes as Iraq Shia militia supporters hold protests

Last Sunday, the Iraqi parliament accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Adel Abdel-Mahdi amid protests against corruption and poor living conditions.

“If the [Iraqi] popular movement expanded, it will be an effective tool to put pressure on those who have power but the prerequisite for this is not to be dragged into acts of violence, chaos nor sabotage,” Karbalai said.

He urged everyone to support and respect the security forces and avoid chaos.

Iraq has been rocked by mass protests since early October in which 460 Iraqis were killed and 17,000 injured, Iraq’s High Commission for Human Rights said.

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