RELIGION

Iraq's top Shiite cleric speaks out against Turkish troops' presence near IS-held Mosul city

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, and President of Iraq'a northern Kurdish region, Massoud Barzani, shake hands before a meeting in Ankara, Turkey, Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Wednesday defended his country's deployment of additional forces to Iraq last week, saying it was an "act of solidarity" with Iraq's fight against the Islamic State group. Turkey has stationed troops at a base outside of the Iraqi city of Mosul since last year as part of a training mission coordinated with the Iraqi government in Baghdad. (AP Photo/Yasin Bulbul, Presidential Press Service, Pool )

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, and President of Iraq'a northern Kurdish region, Massoud Barzani, shake hands before a meeting in Ankara, Turkey, Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Wednesday defended his country's deployment of additional forces to Iraq last week, saying it was an "act of solidarity" with Iraq's fight against the Islamic State group. Turkey has stationed troops at a base outside of the Iraqi city of Mosul since last year as part of a training mission coordinated with the Iraqi government in Baghdad. (AP Photo/Yasin Bulbul, Presidential Press Service, Pool )  (The Associated Press)

Iraq's top Shiite cleric has spoken out against the presence of Turkish troops in the country's north, at a military base near the Islamic State-held city of Mosul.

His representative, Ahmed al-Safi, relayed the words of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani during a Friday sermon in the city of Karbala.

Al-Sistani admonished Turkey, saying it should not have sent "troops to the territory of another state under the pretext of supporting the fight against terrorism" and called on the Iraqi government to "protect the sovereignty of Iraq."

Turkey has had troops near Mosul since last year but the arrival of additional troops last week sparked an uproar in Baghdad. Ankara subsequently halted new deployments.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said Turkey will not pull out troops already stationed in Iraq.