Iraqi cleric tells loyalists to leave streets after clashes

An influential Iraqi cleric called on his supporters to withdraw Tuesday from the capital’s government quarter, 

 where they have clashed violently with security forces for two days in a serious escalation of the political crisis gripping the nation.

In a televised speech, Muqtada al-Sadr gave his supporters an hour to leave — and within minutes some could be seen abandoning their positions. 

Iraq’s military announced the lifting of a nationwide curfew, further raising hopes that calm would be restored after fears instability might spread throughout the country and even the region.

Iraq’s government has been deadlocked since al-Sadr’s party won the largest share of seats in October parliamentary elections but not enough to secure a majority government.

That led to months of political infighting between al-Sadr’s Shiite followers and his Iran-backed Shiite rivals before it became violent Monday.