Sistani is ill reports the Back to Iraq blog
While the Shi'a south seems to be on the verge of conflagration, Baghdad and elsewhere is rife with rumors that Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani is dying of a heart problem. He has been flown to Beirut and will continue on to London for treatment...
.. Sistani's flight out of the country indicates his health condition is indeed very serious, because he hasn't left his home in Najaf in years. His reclusiveness is, in part, a source of his authority, lending him an oracular air...
.. so far, no one in Baghdad really seems to know the full situation. All anyone is sure of is that if Sistani dies, the fighting in the south could get a lot worse as Moqtada al-Sadr and other leaders in the Shi'a community jockey for power.
Things in Iraq have taken a radically bad turn, in my opinion, and the postponement of the national conference seems a bit of a storm in a teacup in comparison. The Americans and the Iraqi Interim government have bigger problems -- e.g., another two-front insurgency -- than whether a veneer of legitimacy will be slathered on by the seating of an Interim National Council.
Sistani's trip is confirmed by this ABC Australia article which tries to put a positive spin on a deadly situation..
... the departure of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani was prompted by coalition forces who are determined to put an end to the uprising by the rebel Shi'ite cleric, Moqtada al-Sadr
Riiight! The man never leaves his house and now is globe-trotting for Bush.