Iraq's leading Shi'ite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, urged Iraq's political parties on Friday (January 24) to form a new government as soon as possible, and urged authorities to respect protesters' right to express themselves.
He delivered his message through a representative at Friday prayer in the holy city of Kerbala, reiterated calls to foreign powers to respect Iraq's sovereignty.
Grand Ayatollah Sistani, who comments on politics only in times of crisis and wields great influence over Iraq's Shi'ite majority, urged reform and a new government as soon as possible.
The protesters who were carrying banners and chanting slogans called for the expulsion of US forces.
During the rallies, the Influential Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr lashed out at the United States for its illegal military presence in Iraq, saying, “If the US government does not agree to leave Iraq, it will be considered and treated as an occupying state and enemy.”