Top Shiite cleric appeals to Iraq's politicians to allow peaceful transition of power

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BAGHDAD — Iraq's most influential Shiite cleric is appealing to politicians not to be "an obstacle" in the process of transition as Iraq nears a deadline to select its next prime minister.

Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani said in comments delivered by his spokesman on Friday that the next government must "command broad acceptance" from the entire political spectrum.

The spokesman, Ahmed al-Safi, quotes the reclusive cleric as saying that "no one should make himself an obstacle in achieving national consensus."

The remarks are seen as another appeal by al-Sistani to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to step down.

Iraq's newly-elected president, Fouad Massoum, is required to select a candidate for the post of premier from the largest political bloc by next Friday.

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