Sunday, February 04, 2007

Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani calls for unity among Muslims

Baghdad, Feb 3 : Iraq's Shiite cleric called today forMuslim unity and an end to sectarian conflict -- his first public statement in months on the worsening security crisis.In statement issued by his office, Grand Ayatollah Alial-Sistani noted that differences between Sunnis and Shiiteshas existed for centuries but should not be the cause forbloodshed."Everyone realises the desperate need for unity and forrenouncing divisions, avoiding sectarian fanaticism andavoiding arousing sectarian disputes," the statement said. The Iranian-born cleric called on all Muslims to work toovercome sectarian differences and calm the passions, whichserve only "those who want to dominate the Islamic country andcontrol its resources to achieve their aims."Al-Sistani, who is in his late 70s, has emerged as one ofthe most influential figures in Iraq since the US-led invasionof 2003 because of his stature within the majority Shiitecommunity.But his calls for calm following the bombing of a Shiiteshrine in Samarra last February proved ineffective inpreventing a surge in Shiite-Sunni bloodletting. Since thenhe has largely refrained from public statements as the waveof sectarian killings swept the country.His last public statement was issued October 20, inwhich he lauded efforts of Sunni and Shiite clerics to stopsectarian violence.

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