Iraqi PM Abadi pledges corruption drive after Sistani criticism

by Reuters
Saturday, 9 January 2016 14:33 GMT

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BAGHDAD, Jan 9 (Reuters) - Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Saturday pledged to stamp out corruption this year amid criticism from the nation's highest Shi'ite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, that his government has done little to combat graft.

Sistani, a reclusive octogenarian, enjoys almost mythological stature among millions of Shi'ite followers and wields authority few Iraqi politicians would openly challenge.

Corruption within the officers corp was one of the reasons of the Iraqi army's failure to oppose the sweaping advance of Islamic State in 2014, according to the findings of an ad-hoc parliamentary committee.

"2016 is the year of eliminating corruption, there is no such things as acceptable corruption and non-acceptable corruption," Abadi said in a speech at a ceremony to celebrate the anniversary of the Iraqi police force in Baghdad.

Sistani on Friday renewed his calls to the government to reform the administration and combat corruption.

"A year has lapsed and nothing has been achieved on the ground," his representative, Sheikh Ahmed al-Safi, told the worshippers in a sermon in Kerbala, a holy Shiite city south of Baghdad. (Reporting by Maher Chmaytelli; Editing by Toby Chopra)