Iraq's top Shiite cleric on Wednesday urged voters to turn out for parliamentary elections set for March 7 but distances himself from any particular coalition. According to the AP, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani warned in a statement Wednesday that failure to participate will allow others to achieve "illegitimate goals."
Meanwhile, the size of the US force in Iraq has falled below 100,000 troops for the first time since the invasion in 2003, a military spokesman said Wednesday. "We have approximately 98,000 service members here at this time," First Lieutenant Elizabeth Feste said, according to AFP. The total number of US soldiers in Iraq peaked at 170,000 in 2007.