First Published: 2004-08-06

 
Sistani headed for London for medical treatment
 

Shiite Islam's most revered cleric is persuaded to leave Najaf because of his critical state of health.

 

Middle East Online

Sistani is expected to stay in London for up to a week

BEIRUT - Shiite Islam's most revered cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, was headed for London for medical treatment Friday amid fierce fighting in his Iraqi base of Najaf, officials at Beirut airport and at the Al-Khoei foundation in London said .

Sistani, 73, arrived in the morning from Baghdad and flew out on a Middle East Airlines flight for London at 11:30 am (0830 GMT), the officials said, without elaborating on his state of health.

The Al-Khoei foundation, a Shiite institution based in London with which Sistani has close links, said that the cleric was expected to arrive at London's main Heathrow airport at 2:00 pm.

"I've heard three of his arteries are blocked," said Al-Khoei spokesman Eagle Abdlemalik. "I can't say how long he is going to stay."

"He was persuaded to leave Najaf obviously because of his critical state of health," the spokesman said, adding that Sistani would be residing at his offices in north London during his stay in Britain.

The cleric met parliament speaker Nabih Berri, who heads the Lebanese Shiite faction Amal, during his stopover, the officials added.

Sistani is regarded by the US-led coalition as a key moderating force among Iraq's Shiite majority.

Under his influence, the mainstream religious leadership in Iraq's Shiite holy cities has distanced itself from radical leader Moqtada Sadr, whose militia has been engaged in fierce battles with US-led troops since Thursday.

Iraqi national security adviser Muwaffaq al-Rubaie said that Sistani's trip to London had been planned for weeks.

Sistani, who is not suffering from a terminal illness, was accompanied by his son, doctor and an assistant, he added.

The senior cleric is expected to stay in London for up to a week.

"I can tell you that I was intimately and personally involved in this trip. It has been organised for several weeks. I took him from Najaf and sat him inside the plane... I took him from door to door".

Rubaie, a doctor once exiled in London, said he had chosen a London medic for Sistani based on his knowledge of the British health care system.

Any suggestion that Sistani was bandied out of the country for his own safety while US and Iraqi forces crush Sadr's militia was "absolutely ridiculous," Rubaie said.

 

Iraq launches operation to clear last IS holdouts from desert

Divided Syria opposition meets in Riyadh

Lebanon’s Hariri suspends resignation

Revolt in US State Department over child soldier law

Outrage in Iraq over 'child marriage' bill

Hezbollah hails PM's suspension of resignation

Syrian opposition aims for unity at talks in Riyadh

Egypt police kill 3 Islamists in shootout

Turkey unsure if Assad to be part of Syria political transition

Migrant arrivals from Libya down since EU deal

Palestinian factions leave Cairo talks with little progress

Sudan’s Bashir looks to Putin for ‘protection’ from US aggression

China, Djibouti forge 'strategic' ties

IS propaganda channels fall quiet in 'unprecedented' hiatus

Kremlin to create Syria congress despite Turkey ‘reservations’

Netanyahu berates deputy minister for 'offensive' remarks on US Jews

Egypt PM heads to Germany for medical treatment

Egypt destroys 10 SUVs carrying arms on Libya border

Saudi-led coalition to reopen Yemen airport, port to aid

Turkey court rules to keep Amnesty chief in jail

France calls for UN meeting on Libya slave-trading

Egypt detains 29 for allegedly spying for Turkey

WTO panel to hear Qatar’s complaint against UAE blockade

Three dead as diphtheria spreads in Yemen

Israel seizes explosive material at Gaza border

Activists call for release of UK journalist held by IS

Bahrain upholds jail sentence for activist

Iraq attacks at lowest since 2014

Turkey continues crackdown in post-coup probe

Hariri back in Lebanon

Putin to hold Syria peace talks with Erdogan, Rouhani

US carries out air strikes against IS in Libya

Lebanon's Hariri in Egypt ahead of return home

Rebels say Sanaa airport 'ready to run' after coalition bombing

Greece to amend historic sharia law for Muslim minority

Turkey to ask Germany to extradite top coup suspect

Car bomb in northern Iraq kills at least 24

Morocco bans bitcoin transactions

13 million Syrians need aid despite relative drop in violence

Sudan urged to improve plight of Darfur's displaced people

Brain drain means Syria can’t recover for a generation

Palestinians close communication lines with Americans

Anti-IS coalition strikes drop to lowest number

German police arrest six Syrians ‘planning terror attack’

Palestinian factions in Cairo for reconciliation talks