Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Associated Press
President Barack Obama pauses while speaking about the situation in Iraq, Thursday, June 19, 2014, in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington. Obama said the US will send up to 300 military advisers to Iraq, set up joint operation centers.

BAGHDAD — The spiritual leader of Iraq's Shiite majority has called for the creation of a new, "effective" government, increasing pressure on the country's premier as an offensive by Sunni militants rages on.

The call Friday by Gran Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani contained thinly veiled criticism that Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, in office since 2006, was to blame for the nation's crisis over the blitz by the al-Qaida-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Al-Sistani's message was delivered by his representative Abdul-Mahdi al-Karbalaie in the holy city of Karbala.

He said the future government "should open new horizons toward a better future for all Iraqis."

Al-Maliki's Shiite-led government long has faced criticism of discriminating against Iraq's Sunni and Kurdish populations.