BAGHDAD (AP) -- 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.