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Iraq's Top Shi'ite Cleric Warns against Continuing Violence

Iraq's top Shi'ite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, has warned the nation's prime minister that the government must provide for security or risk "other groups" taking over that responsibility.

In a statement released Saturday, the ayatollah called the failure of Iraqi security forces to decrease the violence plaguing the country "serious." He made the comments after holding talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Najaf.

Mr. Maliki, who has been criticized for failing to clamp down on sectarian violence, said he planned to make changes to four government ministries.

In other developments, Iraqi officials say they have found the bodies of 14 South Asian Shi'ite pilgrims slaughtered Thursday as they traveled for a religious ceremony in Karbala. Officials say the victims included 11 Pakistanis and three Indians.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters