Members of the Al-Abbas brigades, who volunteered to protect the Shiite Muslim holy sites in Karbala against Sunni militants fighting the Baghdad government, parade in the streets of the Shrine city on June 26, 2014. AFP PHOTO/MOHAMMED SAWAF
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The most influential Shiite sheikh in Iraq Friday called on the country's leaders to choose a prime minister within the next four days, a dramatic political intervention that could hasten the end of Nouri al-Maliki's eight-year rule.Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, who commands unswerving loyalty from many Shiites in Iraq and beyond, said political blocs should agree on the next premier, parliament speaker and president before a newly elected legislature meets Tuesday. Sistani's intervention makes it difficult for Maliki to stay on as caretaker leader as he has since a parliamentary election in April. Sistani's message was delivered after a meeting of Shiite factions including Maliki's State of Law coalition failed to agree a consensus candidate for prime minister. Divvying up the three posts in the four days before parliament meets, as sought by Sistani, would require leaders from each of Iraq's three main ethnic and sectarian groups to commit to the political process and swiftly resolve their most pressing political problems, above all the fate of Maliki himself.
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