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Iraqi Shiite cleric supports al-Maliki to head up new government

Aides to Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr said Friday he backs Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki's Shiite-led coalition in forming a new Iraqi government.

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In this July 19 file photo, Muqtada al-Sadr, one of Iraq's most powerful Shiite political clerics, speaks to reporters following a meeting with former Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi in Damascus, Syria. Aides to the Shiite cleric say his powerful political bloc has agreed to support the Iraqi prime minister's bid to stay in power and end a nearly seven-month political impasse.

Bassem Tellawi/AP Photo/File

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Powerful Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr is backing Iraq's prime minister to retain power in a move that could speed an end to the seven-month political impasse.

The step could also bring dealmaking that may give key concessions to al-Sadr's anti-American bloc.

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The announcement, made Friday at a press conference by officials from al-Sadr's political group, marks a significant boost for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Shiite-led coalition toward securing enough parliament seats to form a new government.