Iraqís top cleric has warned that enemies of Iraq and affiliated groups in the country are plotting to create internal strife and bring the country back to the "era of dictatorship", an apparent reference to the former rule of Saddam Hussein.
Addressing worshipers during Friday prayers in the holy city of Karbala, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani urged protesters to prevent attacks on people and their property and distance themselves from those committing such acts.
"It is imperative on peaceful demonstrators that they separate their ranks from non-peaceful individuals and cooperate on shunning saboteurs - whoever they are - and not allow them to abuse peaceful protests to damage and attack the property of citizens," a representative of Ayatollah Sistani said as he delivered the top clericís sermon.
"The enemies and their levers, in order to achieve their malicious goals, plan to spread chaos and plunge the country into internal strife and then return it to dictatorship, so everyone must work together to take away this opportunity from them," he added.
The remarks come two days after rioters, who have been wreaking havoc in various parts of Iraq over the past weeks by infiltrating peaceful protests against corruption and poverty, stormed and set fire to Iranís diplomatic mission in Najaf.
Observers have expressed concern that the incident is part of a larger US-backed push to destabilize the country.
A few months ago, the Lebanese Arabic-language daily newspaper al-Akhbar reported that Iraqi security sources have uncovered a plan seeking to install a military strongman favored by the US by creating a power vacuum in the country.
The current provocations come amid two months of widespread economic protects and calls for political reform in Iraq.
Ayatollah Sistani urges PMs to review
In his Friday sermon, Ayatollah Sistani also called on "the Iraqi Council of Representatives [parliament], which the current government originates from, to review its options, given the difficult circumstances of the country and the apparent inability of the relevant parties to deal with the recent two-month-long developments in protecting rights and preventing bloodshed."
The council, the top cleric said, "is invited to act in the best interests of Iraq and protect the blood of Iraqís children and prevent the country from slipping into a cycle of violence, chaos and destruction."
Ayatollah Sistani further called on the parliament to "accelerate the adoption of a set of electoral laws meeting peopleís demands as a prelude to a free and fair election that correctly reflects the will of the Iraqi people."
"Any delay and procrastination in moving along this path which is the proper aperture to get through the current crisis in a peaceful and civilized way under the protection of the constitution will cost the country dearly and bring regret to everyone," he added.
Over 300 people have been killed in the Iraq unrest since October 1, according to the Iraqi parliamentís human rights commission.
Earlier this month, Iraqi Defense Minister Najah al-Shammari told France 24ís Arabic-language channel that a "third party" was behind shootings targeting demonstrators.