Saturday, October 29, 2005

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Sistani ends Shia party backing

Sistani ends Shia party backing

Ayatollah Sistani, one of Iraq's most senior Shia clerics, will not endorse any political groups for December's election, his spokesman has said.

The grand ayatollah wants Iraqis to vote according to their beliefs, Sheikh Abdul Mahdi al-Karbalai said in a sermon on Friday.

The ayatollah's statement may worry the ruling Shia-led coalition, the United Iraqi Alliance.

His support before the January election helped them win over many Iraqi Shia.

Delivering a Friday sermon in the holy city of Karbala, Sheikh Karbalai revealed that Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, a marja, or source of emulation for his followers, would not back any party.

"The marja enjoins Iraqis to participate massively in the forthcoming elections, but does not support any political group in particular," he said.

"It's up to Iraqis to make their choice based on their beliefs."

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