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Top Iraq Shi'ite cleric calls for Lebanon ceasefire
BAGHDAD, July 31 (Reuters) - Iraq's top Shi'ite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, has warned that the Muslim world will not forgive countries which stand in the way of a ceasefire between Israel and Hizbollah guerrillas in Lebanon.
"The Islamic world and peace loving people will not excuse sides which hinder a ceasefire. It will have harmful consequences in the whole region," he said in a statement issued late on Sunday, in a clear reference to the United States.
The United States has opposed calling for an immediate ceasefire. Both Israel and the United States have said such a ceasefire would be meaningless unless Hizbollah could no longer carry out raids and rocket attacks and the Shi'ite militia was eventually disarmed as demanded by a U.N. resolution.
Sistani condemned as an "ugly crime" an Israeli air strike that killed at least 54 civilians in the Lebanese village of Qana on Sunday. Thirty-seven children were killed in the raid.
The raid triggered worldwide demands for a truce in the Jewish state's war against Shi'ite Hizbollah militants.
Sistani is seen as a key moderating voice in Iraq, where sectarian violence has raised fears of civil war between majority Shi'ites and Sunnis.