(UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (R), walks after a meeting with Iraq's top Shi'ite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Najaf July 24, 2014. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sought guidance from Iraq's top cleric on Thursday, as he urged Iraqi politicians to form an inclusive government that can confront a Sunni militant insurgency. Ban's meeting with Shi'ite Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani underscored the 83-year-old cleric's vast sway in Iraq, where Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is considered a polarising figure who has fueled sectarian tensions. A spokesman for Ban told Reuters the United Nations chief was meeting with Sistani in the city of Najaf to seek his wisdom on developments in Iraq. REUTERS/Ahmad Mousa )

(UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (R), walks after a meeting with Iraq’s top Shi’ite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Najaf July 24, 2014. REUTERS/Ahmad Mousa )

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sought guidance from Iraq’s top cleric on Thursday, as he urged Iraqi politicians to form an inclusive government that can confront a Sunni militant insurgency.

Ban’s meeting with Shi’ite Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani underscored the 83-year-old cleric’s vast sway in Iraq, where Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is considered a polarizing figure who has fueled sectarian tensions.

A spokesman for Ban told Reuters the United Nations chief was meeting with Sistani in the city of Najaf to seek his wisdom on developments in Iraq.

Sistani has seized his most active role in politics in a decade, asserting dominance over public affairs and demanding politicians choose a new government without delay. His activism could hastening the end of Maliki, who is accused of alienating many Sunnis.