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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 February, 2005, 17:59 GMT
Sistani 'not seeking Islamic law'
Portrait of Ayatollah Ali Sistani
As the senior Iraqi Shia, Ayatollah Sistani is a very influential figure
A spokesman for Iraq's most influential Shia cleric has denied reports that the cleric is demanding that Islam be the country's sole source of law.

Hamed Khafaf said Ayatollah Ali Sistani believes Iraq's new constitution should respect what he described as the Islamic cultural identity of Iraqis.

Shia success in the election led to speculation that the ayatollah wanted a constitution based on Sharia law.

Mr Khafaf said the speculation was baseless.

He insisted that Ayatollah Sistani's position had not changed.

In Ayatollah Sistani's view, his spokesman went on to say, it was up to the elected representatives of the people in the new National Assembly to decide the details.

Mr Khafaf said the ayatollah had approved the current wording of Iraq's interim constitution, which states that Islam is a source of legislation and no law contradicting Islamic tenets may be passed.

Reports at the weekend that prominent Iraqi Shia clerics were now pushing for a constitution based solely on Islamic Sharia law caused concern among Iraqi secular and Kurdish leaders.

BBC regional analyst Sadeq Saba says the statement by Ayatollah Sistani's spokesman suggests that the ayatollah has no intention of turning Iraq into an Iranian-style theocracy.

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