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Report: Obama Asks Shi'ite Cleric to Settle Iraq's Political Crisis

An Iraqi man holds a picture of top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali Husseini al-Sistani at a campaign rally for Ammar al-Hakim in Baghdad 5 Mar 2010

A leading American magazine says U.S. President Barack Obama has sent a letter to Iraq's top Shi'ite cleric urging him to persuade the country's squabbling political leaders to form a new government.

Foreign Policy magazine's online edition cites an unnamed individual briefed by members of Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani's family as its source. It said a Shi'ite member of Iraq's parliament delivered the letter to Sistani.

There was no immediate comment from the White House.

Iraq has remained plagued by political deadlock since March parliamentary elections in which no party won enough seats to form a majority.

Two leading groups have each been trying to form a ruling coalition.

Mr. Obama's reported appeal comes as U.S. troops prepare to withdraw from Iraq, and amid continuing insurgent violence.

Under Iraq's constitution, the parliament should have picked a president last month. The president would then have chosen a prime minister, who in turn would form a government.

Former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's Sunni-backed Iraqiya alliance won the most seats - two more than the mainly Shi'ite State of Law coalition led by incumbent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.