On Saturday, representatives of the Shia figure Muqtada al-Sadr met members of the most influential Sunni religious organisation and the biggest Sunni political bloc as violence continued to rage after the bombing of a major Shia shrine on Wednesday.

Envoys of al-Sadr, whose militiamen were accused by some Sunnis of attacking Sunni mosques in reprisal for the attack in the city of Samarra, met members of the Association of  Muslim Scholars and the Iraqi Accordance Front, the biggest Sunni
political bloc.

Al-Sadr's representatives reiterated denials that his al-Mahdi Army militia attacked Sunnis and their mosques.

"There is no way we will be divided no matter what the conspiracies," said Fadil al-Sharaa, a cleric who represented al-Sadr in talks at a Sunni mosque in Baghdad.

The leaders condemned the attack on the Golden Mosque in Samarra north of the capital on Wednesday, which triggered reprisals against Sunnis.

Police put deaths in some of the worst sectarian bloodshed since the US-led invasion of 2003 at more than  200 while the Defence Ministry said 119 people were killed.