Iraqi Shiite cleric backs al-Maliki in key boost
Influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr backed Iraq's prime minister to keep power Friday in a shift that could speed an end to the country's seven-month following stalemate but could also hand al-Sadr's anti-American bloc considerable power in the next government.

The choice marks a important boost for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Shiite-led coalition toward securing sufficient parliament seats to form a new government. For months, the Sadrists have insisted al-Maliki be replaced.

Iraq has been in following limbo since March elections, which a Sunni-backed bloc won, but so barely that it did not have the mainstream needed to oust al-Maliki.

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