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Shiites Back Cleric's Call for Elections

Tens of thousands of Shiite Muslims shouting “No to America!” marched Thursday through this southern city to back their spiritual leader’s call for early elections, a stand that could stymie a U.S. blueprint for transferring power to a new Iraqi administration. The peaceful demonstration in Basra, Iraq’s second-largest city, followed a string of violent incidents across the country, including a car bombing in Baqouba and a series of clashes between U.S. troops and insurgents that left 20 people dead. An estimated 20,000-30,000 Shiite Muslims turned out to support Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani’s demand that an interim legislature be elected directly and not chosen in provincial caucuses, as called for under the American plan. Full Story

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