America wants to increase sectarian strife among Iraqis but it has so far failed to do,” said Shaikh Abd al-Salam al-Kubaisi, a senior official at the Association of Muslim Clerics, one of Iraq’s highest Sunni bodies.

“Those enemies and invaders who are bargaining for sectarian strife among Iraqis are mistaken,” he said.

An attack on a Sunni mosque in a Shia neighbourhood of Baghdad last week after the assassination of a leading Shia cleric Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim has stoked fears of sectarian conflict and even civil war. 
 
The Baghdad mosque attack was an isolated incident, said Al-Kubaisi without trying to identify the perpetrators.

Al-Kubaisi said Iraq’s Sunnis have struggled to ensure the killing of al-Hakim in Najaf on 29 August did not drive a wedge between the country’s Muslims.

“We have warned all our mosques that we shouldn’t…be motivated to take part in any sectarian argument,” he said.

Council opposition

The Sunni cleric urged for peaceful resistance to the “economic and cultural goals” of the US occupation.

He also called for the US-backed Governing Council, whose 25 posts were divided along sectarian and ethnic lines, to resign because it could not achieve an independent government.

“They don’t represent the Iraqi people,” said al-Kubaisi “It should dissolve itself if it has the courage to do.”

He also opposed the Council’s appointment of ministers, saying it had been done on a sectarian basis and was another aspect of a US plan to rule Iraq by dividing it.

Muslims of the Shia persuasion form 53 percent of Iraq's population with Sunnis making up the rest.