Iraq's top Shia cleric suspends weekly political sermons

Reuters , Friday 5 Feb 2016

File Photo: Iraqis carry a poster of top Shi'ite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani during a demonstration in Najaf, 160 km (100 miles) south of Baghdad, June 13, 2007 (Photo: Reuters)

Iraq's top Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, on Friday said he would no longer deliver regular weekly sermons about political affairs, which for years have been a source of guidance for his followers.

Sistani's aide Ahmed al-Safi, who delivered the message, did not give a reason for suspending the sermons, which have lately focused on the government's battle against ISIS militants and anti-corruption efforts.

"It has been decided not to continue this on a weekly basis at the present time, but only as demanded by events", Safi said in a televised speech from the southern shrine city of Kerbala before reciting a prayer.

Sistani, a reclusive octogenarian, enjoys almost mythical status among millions of Shia  followers and wields authority that few Iraqi politicians would openly challenge.

His political sermons have ranged over issues such as security, elections and the economy.

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