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Iraq’s top Shia cleric urges security forces, protesters to avoid violence

BAGHDAD: Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the top Shia cleric of Iraq, has urged security forces and protesters to avoid violence, expressing sorrow over some sporadic unrest that has led to several casualties.

“It is sorrowful there have been so many deaths, casualties and destruction” from clashes between anti-government protesters and security forces in recent days, Ayatollah Sistani said in a letter Friday.

In the letter read out by his representative Ahmed al-Safi during a sermon in the holy city of Karbala, the top cleric urged all parties to avoid violence.

He also criticized officials and political sides for failing to answer the demands of the people to fight corruption, urging them to heed the demands of the protesters “before it’s too late”.

“Lawmakers hold the biggest responsibility for what is happening,” Ayatollah Sistani was quoted as saying.

Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi on Thursday expressed regret that the ongoing protests have become violent, saying he is ready to meet with representatives of the protesters to discuss their demands.

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