Iranian cleric calls for talks between clashing factions in Iraq

A senior Shiite Muslim cleric in Iran called Friday for Iraq's government and Shiite militant groups to sit down for talks and end the bloodshed that has killed dozens of people this week. A political discussion would be "in the interest of all," the official IRNA news agency quoted Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati as saying in his preach during Friday prayers in Tehran. Dozens of Iraqis have died in ongoing clashes as Shiite militants and Nouri al-Maliki's Shiite-dominated government forces face off in Baghdad and several southern Iraqi cities. Anger has been growing among militants since the Iraqi government launched a crackdown against Shiite militia violence in the southern oil port of Basra earlier this week. The government says it is acting against criminal gangs.