BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq's biggest Shi'ite party on Saturday pledged its
allegiance to the country's top Shi'ite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani,
in a move that would distance it from Shi'ite Iran where it was formed.
The Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) said it had
introduced significant policy changes and changed its name to the Supreme
Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC) -- dropping the word "Revolution".
Party officials told Reuters on Friday that the changes were aimed at giving
the party more of an Iraqi flavour and to reflect the changing situation in the
country since the U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.
They said the party had been close to Sistani for some time, but a two-day
conference on Baghdad that ended on Friday had formalised relations with the
"We cherish the great role played by the religious establishment headed by
Grand Ayatollah Sayed Ali al-Sistani ... in preserving the unity of Iraq and the
blood of Iraqis and in helping them building a political system based on the
constitution and law," said Rida Jawad al-Takki, a senior group member, who read
out the party's decisions to reporters.
While it's not clear how this will impact the opposition to American occupation, it will increase SCIRI's strength in parliament.