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Obama asks Sistani to help settle Iraq impasse

US seeks Sistani's help after Biden's failure

President Barack Obama has sent a letter to Iraq's top Shiite cleric, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, urging him to persuade the country's squabbling political leaders to form a new government, Foreign Policy magazine reported Friday.

The magazine's online edition, which cited an unnamed individual briefed by members of the cleric's family as its source, said that the letter was delivered to Sistani by a Shiite member of the Iraqi parliament.

Obama sent the letter shortly after a failed attempt by Vice President Joe Biden to settle the dispute over the new government during a visit to Baghdad July 4, the report said.

A White House spokesman had no comment on the report, and a spokesman for Sistani's office in Najaf also declined to comment.

The political impasse in Iraq comes as US forces are drawing down their numbers to 50,000 troops by the end of the month despite simmering political violence.

Former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's party edged out a coalition led by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in March parliamentary elections, but neither won a majority and negotiations on a new government have stalled.