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Iraq’s top Shi’ite cleric tells Rouhani ties must respect sovereignty

Reuters reports:

Iraq’s top Shi’ite cleric told Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday that Iraqi sovereignty must be respected and weapons kept in state hands, a veiled reference to increasingly influential Iran-backed militias.

It was the first meeting between an Iranian president and the 88-year-old Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who rarely weighs in on politics but exerts wide influence over Iraqi public opinion.

Sistani welcomed “any steps to strengthen Iraq’s relations with its neighbours ... based on respect for the sovereignty of the countries and no interference in domestic affairs”, a statement from his office said.

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