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Iraq’s feuding political leaders are under mounting pressure to set aside their differences after a call by the country’s most revered Shiite cleric for an agreement on the next prime minister before parliament meets next week. The appeal by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani on Friday came as the country seems increasingly in danger of falling apart, with the al-Qaida breakaway group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant having seized much of northern and western Iraq and the Kurds asserting control over long-disputed territories outside their autonomous region. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s bloc won the most seats in April’s election, but he is now fighting for his job, with even fellow Shiite allies and key patron Iran exploring alternatives to replace him. Critics have charged al-Maliki with monopolizing power and failing to address long-festering grievances by the Sunni minority.

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