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Iraq's religious leaders to meet in Amman

Written by: Staff
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AMMAN, Apr 5 (Reuters) Religious leaders from Iraq's main Sunni and Shi'ite Muslim sects will meet in the Jordan this month to try to heal sectarian strife that threatens to push the country to all-out civil war, officials said today.

They said the one-day conference would be held on April 22 in Amman under the auspices of the Cairo-based Arab League, and with King Abdullah's backing, to bring together leaders from the minority Sunni and majority Shi'ite communities.

It is not immediately clear who will attend, but invites have been sent to top clerics from Iraq and the region.

''The conference will be an important step towards ending violence and consolidating Iraq's stability,'' said a statement released by Jordan's royal court.

An Arab summit in Khartoum last week endorsed the meeting with the backing of Iraq's Shi'ite-led government after the idea was first floated by Jordan's king, who has stepped up a campaign to undermine Islamist extremists and promote Islam as a religion of peace.

Organisers said the meeting would agree on a declaration signed by clerics from across the sectarian divide saying ''there was no religious reason for Shi'ite and Sunni infighting or hostility''.

Sectarian attacks have surged in Iraq since the bombing of a major Shi'ite mosque in Samarra in February unleashed a wave of violence.

REUTERS SBJ BS2303

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