BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraq’s top Sh’ite Cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani on Friday called on protesters and security forces to keep anti-government demonstrations peaceful.

“Real reform and change in the country has to be through peaceful methods,” a representative of the cleric said during a sermon in the holy city of Kerbala.

Sistani, who rarely weighs in on politics except in times of crisis, said that security forces must not allow attacks on public and private property.

Reporting by Ahmed Aboulenein; writing by Raya Jalabi