Iraq top cleric al-Sistani condemns attacks on peaceful protesters, rejects govt

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Iraq’s top Shiite cleric on Friday condemned the use of lethal force against protesters and urged demonstrators to reject acts of violence and vandalism, warning against another spiral of violence as demonstrations continued across the country.

“Attacks against peaceful protesters are forbidden,” a representative of Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani said, addressing worshippers at Friday prayer in Karbala.

Protesters “must not allow peaceful demonstrations to be turned into attacks on property or people ... and peaceful demonstrators should coordinate to eject vandals,” he said.

Al-Sistani also urged parliament on Friday to drop its support for the current cabinet.

“The parliament, from which this current government is drawn, is asked to reconsider its choice in this regard and act according to Iraq’s interest ... [to] preserve the blood of its children,” Sistani said in a weekly sermon delivered by his representative in the holy city of Karbala.

Al-Sistani has previously called on politicians to hurry up in reforming electoral laws and said the changes would be the only way to resolve weeks of deadly unrest.

His comments came as the death toll from weeks of anti-government unrest rose on Friday to at least 408 people killed, mostly unarmed protesters, a Reuters count based on police and medical sources showed.

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