Shaikh Jawad al-Khalisi, told Aljazeera.net that pro-US occupation parties are trying to promote conflict among the Shia. 

"The US occupation and its collaborators have failed to initiate a Sunni-Shia conflict in Iraq over the past 15 months. They are now trying to turn Shia against Shia," he said.

Al-Khalisi is the imam of Mousa al-Kadhim's mosque, which houses the tomb of Mousa al-Kadhim, a revered religious scholar and descendant of prophet Muhammad.

He also functions as the general secretary of the Anti-US Occupation Iraqi Congress, a group comprised of both Shia and Sunni members. 

'Wise men' needed

For months now, the Iraqi Shia community has been torn between the authority of the Iranian-born Ayat Allah Ali al-Sistani, who wants to "resist the occupation peacefully", and Muqtada al-Sadr's declaration of war on the occupation.

Al-Khalisi said Najaf today is a tense place and it urgently needs to get rid of trouble-makers.

"Things should not reach the point of fistfights and the tearing down of posters of Shia leaders as happened on Friday. Iraq's internal issues should be solved by dialogue.

Sistani and al-Hakim posters were
torn apart by al-Sadr followers

"Wise men from both Sistani and al-Sadr camps should be given the stage, and the hotheads should be sent away from Najaf," said al-Khalisi. 

He said, however, that both factions have people with the wisdom to bridge the gap between the sides. 

Even so, Friday prayer was an occasion for delivering charged political sermons in different parts of Iraq.

In Kufa, which is the stronghold of al-Sadr, the preacher of the Friday prayer announced the Shia leader's conditional support for the new Iraqi interim government.

Call to arms

Shaikh Jabir al-Khafaji, who delivered the sermon instead of al-Sadr for the third successive Friday, said al-Sadr would support Iyad Allawi's government if it asked for a deadline for US troops to leave Iraq.

He urged al-Mahdi Army fighters to dedicate themselves to the cause of Iraq and Islam.

"I advise al-Mahdi fighters to be human shields to protect Iraq, religion, sect and Shia authority."

Al-Khafaji further said the US had left the fate of Iraq's minorities hanging in the balance when it approved the Iraqi interim government.

Meanwhile, in Baghdad the Iraqi Sunni Muslim preacher, Shaikh Ahmed al-Samarai, addressed Friday prayer worshippers at the Abu Hanifa al-Numan mosque with a call to all members of the former Iraqi military to join the resistance.

He attacked interim Prime Minister Allawi for asking foreign troops to tackle the security problems of Iraq and branded him an American tool. 

"Have you ever seen Iraqi people so dishonourable....unable to defend their country.... as to go and invite foreign troops to Iraq?" al-Samarai told his audience.