Iraq's Sistani meets Shi'ite alliance group

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NAJAF, Iraq, Sep 23 (Reuters) A delegation from Iraq's ruling Shi'ite alliance has met the reclusive Shi'ite leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani to discuss re-uniting the group after two parties broke away.

The political bloc loyal to anti-American cleric Moqtada al -Sadr pulled out of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's United Alliance earlier this month, following the withdrawal in March of Fadhila Party.

''We look forward to the unity of the alliance returning ...

shortly,'' said Qassem Daoud, an independent Shi'ite lawmaker, after last night's meeting between Sistani and the alliance delegation, led by former prime minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari.

Sistani rarely leaves his home in the holy Shi'ite city of Najaf in southern Iraq and makes few public statements. But he sponsored Maliki's alliance and is hugely influential among Iraq's majority Shi'ites.

Maliki has lost around a dozen Sunni and Shi'ite Arab ministers from his cabinet and the withdrawal of Sadr's bloc in parliament left him relying on a coalition with Kurdish parties in parliament.

A spokesman for Sadr's political bloc welcome Jaafari's meeting with Sistani and said representatives from all the parties which originally formed the alliance planned to meet to discuss reviving it.

Sadr's supporters and Iraq's main Sunni Arab political bloc have all said they have no immediate plans to seek a vote of no confidence in Maliki's government.

''The goal of ousting Maliki's government is not a noble one at all because it's not Maliki's government, it's a government for all Iraqis,'' said Salam al-Zobaie, deputy prime minister and member of the Sunni Arab Accordance Front.

''But if the Maliki government won't change its performance, meet the demands of the people and listen to its partners, this government will go,'' he told a news conference in Baghdad.


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