09/26/2007, 00.00
IRAQ
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Al Sistani appeal, Iraqis leave aside your divisions

The highest Shiite religious authority accuses the media of exaggerating the number of victims and speaking of confessional war. But in the interim, Moqtada Al Sadr’s men tour bordering nations to explain their anti-American strategy

Baghdad (AsiaNews/Agencies) – An appeal to Iraqi’s to “forget their divisions” was launched today by the grand ayatollah Al Sistani, the country’s top religious authority for Shiite Islam.  The Ayatollahs peace initiative came one day after a campaign launched by supporters of Moqtada al-Sadr, drawn from the extremist fringes of the Shiite Islam, who are touring neighbouring Arab states to promote their anti-American campaign.

 

“Your nation is rich and full of resources – the official statement released by Al Sistani reads – I appeal to you to leave aside your divisions with your Sunni brothers”.   The statement clarifies that the grand ayatollah spoke these words yesterday, speaking to the tribal chiefs in the holy Shiite city of Najaf, 150 kilometres south of Baghdad.  “Be as a great mountain – he added – immoveable before the attempts of some media to attack our unity, exaggerating the number of the victims and speaking of confessional war”.

 

Ali Sistani’s appeal comes however at a very particular moment of the Iraqi conflict.  On the one hand tribal leaders, Shiite and Sunni are pondering the possibility of an alliance against terrorism – in a time of relative calm – while on the other there is an ongoing struggle within the Shiite community for overall control.  In the background, the chronic weakness of the government and the increasing number of refugees.  According to official data released by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (Unhcr), the numbers continue to rise: about 4.2 million Iraqi’s have been uprooted from their homes.

 

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