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“This fatwa is directed at al-Sadr,” said an aide to Mr. al-Maliki. “We are waiting.”

The aide also said that the U.S. and Iranian ambassadors in Iraq are in the unusual position of pushing the same agenda: Iraq cannot be allowed to fall back into political limbo.

The aide said both diplomats reached out separately to Amar al-Hakim, head of the biggest Shiite political group in Iraq, with appeals to solve the political spat through dialogue.

The aide spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not allowed to brief the news media.