Iran on Friday condemned the murder of prominent Shiite cleric Seyyed Abdul Majid Al-Khoei who was stabbed to death in the Iraqi city of Najaf one day earlier.
"Resorting to violence in order to achieve political ends is condemned," Iranian Foreign Minister spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency.
"The brave Iraqi people in the current sensitive juncture, while (maintaining) their unity, solidarity and vigilance, must not allow outside forces to impose their views on them by exploiting their disunity and conflicts," Asefi said.
He also voiced sympathy with and offered condolences to Khoei's family.
The attackers reportedly dragged the cleric out of the Imam Ali Mosque, one of the holiest shrines for Shiite Muslims, and shot at him before killing him with several strokes of knife.
The identity of the assailants and their motives were not known yet.
Al-Khoei was the son of senior spiritual leader Ayatollah Abulqassem Al-Khoei, who died under hazy circumstances in the aftermath of a Shiite uprising against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in 1991.
Following the uprising, Al-Khoei defected to London and established a charity group. He returned to Karbala, another holy city in central Iraq, and arrived in Najaf on April 3.
This was the first known political assassination in Iraq following the collapse of Saddam's regime on Wednesday.
The death of Al-Khoei is expected to raise tensions among Iraq's majority Shiite population and aggravate an already volatile situation in the absence of law and order.