Iraq's top Shia cleric called on Friday for the country's next government to be "effective" and avoid past mistakes, in an implicit criticism of the embattled incumbent premier.
Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani called for the "formation of an effective government that is acceptable on a ... national level (and) avoids past mistakes," in remarks made by his spokesman on his behalf.
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who is seeking a third term following an April 30 general election, is under fire both domestically and internationally for allegedly exclusionary policies towards the Sunni Arab minority that helped set the stage for a militant offensive that has overrun swathes of Iraq.
US Vice President Joe Biden, Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Martin Dempsey and David Petraeus, the former top US commander in Iraq, have all either called for Maliki to be more inclusive, or criticised him outright.
US President Barack Obama said Thursday that Maliki's actions could dictate the fate of the country, amid a growing feeling in Washington that the Iraqi leader would do best by moving on.