"Either they should be totally sovereign or resign collectively," said one cleric at a Baghdad mosque, referring to interim Prime Minister Iyad Allwai's cabinet, which took office following the so-called transfer of authority to a transitional government on 28 June.

Random arrests and attacks in the Sunni Muslim areas of Falluja and Samarra, west and north of Baghdad respectively, carried out in the name of the government must stop, said Ahmad Abd al-Ghafour Samarrai in his weekly sermon.

"We violently condemn such acts," the Sunni cleric said about recent US air strikes on alleged hideouts of top al-Qaida operative Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

He also condemned the deadly force unleashed by US soldiers on Thursday in Samarra after a national guard station was attacked by mortars.

In the city of Kufa, a cleric speaking on behalf of the Shia leader Muqtada Sadr condemned Allawi for a range of failings during his first few days in charge, from failing to allow religious and popular Iraqi leaders to oversee the trial of Saddam Hussein to not providing basic services.

Powers decried

"I call upon the installed government to provide the same levels of electricity, drinking water and fuel to the public as are readily available for the occupiers," said Jabir Khafaji, referring to the US-led foreign soldiers that remain in Iraq despite the handover of power.

The new security law passed by
the cabinet came in for attack

Khafaji welcomed a call by Iranian President Muhammad Khatami and Syrian President Bashar al-Asad for the rapid departure of foreign troops from Iraq.
  
For his part, the head of the Salafist mosque of Ibn Taymiya in Baghdad, Mehdi Sumaydi, lashed out at Allawi for announcing "to the world that Iraq helped in an American raid on Falluja".
  
The cleric rejected outright the premier's new powers awarded by the passage of a strict security law on Wednesday, arguing that Allawi should not be allowed to infringe public liberties in the absence of an elected parliament.

Cancelled trip

Meanwhile, Allawi has turned down an invitation by the Dutch EU presidency for talks with European Union officials in Brussels Monday, a diplomat close to the presidency said Friday.

 

 "It's true an invitation was put to the prime minister ... but yesterday (Thursday) it was said that, in view of the situation in Iraq, he would not be able to come to Brussels," the diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

 

Diplomats had said earlier on Friday that Allawi could send Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zibari in his place.

 

Talks continue with Iraqi authorities to find out if Zibari can make the trip.