BAGHDAD (AP) — The spiritual leader of Iraq's Shiite majority has called for the creation of a new, "effective" government, increasing pressure on the country's premier as an offensive by Sunni militants rages on.

The call Friday by Gran Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani contained thinly veiled criticism that Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, in office since 2006, was to blame for the nation's crisis over the blitz by the al-Qaida-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Al-Sistani's message was delivered by his representative Abdul-Mahdi al-Karbalaie in the holy city of Karbala.

He said the future government "should open new horizons toward a better future for all Iraqis."

Al-Maliki's Shiite-led government long has faced criticism of discriminating against Iraq's Sunni and Kurdish populations.

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