Baghdad (Reuters) – Iraq’s top Shi’ite Muslim cleric said on Friday that a new prime minister must be chosen without foreign interference after the incumbent Adel Abdul Mahdi announced his resignation a week ago.
Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani urged political leaders to abandon partisan politics in choosing a new head of government and said he would have no involvement in efforts to replace Abdul Mahdi.
“We hope a new head of government and its members will be chosen within the constitutional deadline” of 15 days since the resignation was formalised in parliament on Sunday, a representative of Sistani said in his Friday sermon in the holy city of Kerbala.
“It must also take place without any foreign interference,” he said.
Abdul Mahdi pledged to step down on Friday last week after Sistani urged lawmakers to reconsider their support for the government following two months of anti-establishment protests where security forces have killed more than 400 demonstrators.
Iraq’s two main allies, the United States and Iran, have acted as power brokers in Iraq since the 2003 U.S. invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, although Tehran’s allies have mostly dominated state institutions since then.
Iranian officials including the powerful commander of its Revolutionary Guards’ elite Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani, stepped in to prevent Abdul Mahdi’s resignation in October, Reuters reported.
Soleimani was reported to be in Baghdad this week.