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Influential Shi'ite Cleric Endorses Interim Iraqi Government - 2004-06-03


Iraq's most influential Shi'ite Muslim cleric, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, has endorsed the new Iraqi interim government but says it will succeed only if it meets specific goals.

The ayatollah's office in the southern Shi'ite holy city of Najaf issued a Thursday, which was partly handwritten and stamped with his official seal.

It said the government chosen by the United Nations, the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council and U.S. officials lacks "electoral legitimacy" but remains "a step in the right direction."

The statement says the new government will not have popular acceptance unless it can provide security and basic services for all, achieve full Iraqi sovereignty through a new U.N. resolution, and organize elections early next year.

Ayatollah Sistani's endorsement is considered crucial for the new Iraqi government, which was sworn in on Tuesday.

In more violence, at least five Iraqis have been killed and 11 others wounded in new clashes between U.S. troops and militiamen loyal to radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr near the southern city of Kufa.

In the northern oil city of Kirkuk, an ammunition dump at U.S. military base was set ablaze when hit by rockets fired by unidentified assailants late Wednesday. There were no casualties, and Reuters news agency reports the fires have been put out.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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