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Iraq’s top cleric warns against chaos and worsening crisis

BAGHDAD — Iraq’s top Shiite cleric is warning of civil war after a deadly day of violence in which security forces shot dead 40 people in the capital and the southern provinces, calling on lawmakers who to “reconsider” their support for the current government.

Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani says the parliament that voted the government of Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi is “invited to reconsider its choices in that regard,” in his weekly Friday sermon delivered in the holy city of Najaf.

Al-Sistani also said protesters should distinguish between peaceful demonstrators and those with have malign intentions to coopt their movement.

Forty protesters were shot dead by security forces in Baghdad and the southern cities of Najaf and Nasiriya on Thursday, one day after the burning of an Iranian consulate.

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