Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani
Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani wants election by the end of the year:
The leading Shia cleric in Iraq, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, has called for elections by the end of 2004.
He said he wanted guarantees from the UN Security Council that there would be no further delays to the polls.
Ayatollah Sistani had wanted elections before the transfer of power to the Iraqis from the coalition on 30 June.
But a UN report published on 23 February said a "credible" vote could only be held at the end of the year at the earliest.
In a written statement, the Shia leader said the unelected government appointed after the transfer of power should have strictly limited powers and should focus on preparing for elections.
"The religious Shia authority wants the body that will receive power at the end of June to have extended powers in order to prepare transparent and free elections but also urges it to run the country without taking important decisions," the statement said.