October 19, 2009 3:21 PM

In Najaf, Iraq's Shiite clerics push for direct elections

If there's one place in Iraq outside the parliament itself that will set the tone for the country's politics, it's Najaf, a dusty city of about 900,000 that was neglected under Saddam Hussein's Sunni Muslim dictatorship. Najaf is to Shiites what Vatican City is to Roman Catholics, but some of Shiite Islam's highest spiritual figures operate here out of public view, issuing occasional utterances on issues they consider central to Iraqi society.

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