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Top Iraqi cleric backs plan to disband militias

Incoming prime minister Nouri al-Maliki won the backing yesterday of Iraq's top Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, for his plan to disband militias, which the U.S. believes is the key to calming sectarian strife and halting the slide toward civil war.

But violence flared across a wide area of the country, as gunmen assassinated the sister of Sunni Vice-President Tariq al-Hashimi a day after he endorsed the use of force to quell Sunni-led insurgents. AP

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