Middle East

Iraqis keep up anti-government protests despite PM’s vow to quit

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Protesters burned tyres and surrounded a police station in the southern Iraqi city of Nassiriya on Saturday, a Reuters witness said, pressing their demands for sweeping reform despite the country's prime minister promising to quit.

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Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi announced his resignation on Friday after a call from Iraqs top Shiite Muslim cleric for the government to step down to end weeks of deadly unrest.

The unrest, during which more than 400 people, mostly demonstrators, have been killed, amounts to the biggest crisis confronting Iraq since Islamic State group insurgents seized vast swathes of Iraqi and Syrian territory in 2014.

Mostly young, disaffected Shiite protesters have been pitted against a Shiite-dominated government backed by Iran, and accused of squandering Iraqs oil wealth while infrastructure and living standards deteriorate.

Security forces have used live ammunition, tear gas and stun grenades against protesters for nearly two months. Scores of the dead have been killed in recent days, particularly in the southern cities of Nassiriya and Najaf.

At a funeral procession for protesters killed this week in Najaf, a Shiite holy city, a mourner who declined to give his name said: “This man was protesting holding an Iraqi flag and a flower. He was shot dead. Hes a sacrifice for the nation.”

Iraqs cabinet approved Abdul Mahdis resignation, a statement from his office said on Saturday, but parliament has yet to withdraw its support for the prime minister at a session on Sunday, making it official.

“The government has done all it can to respond to the demands of protesters and enact reforms … and calls the parliament to find solutions (to unrest) in its coming session,” the statement said.

Iraqi protesters have welcomed the resignation but say it is not enough. They demand the overhaul of a political system they say is corrupt and keeps them in poverty and without opportunity.

Populist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who has supported protests but not thrown his full weight behind them, said late on Friday that demonstrations should continue.

Families mourn dead

“The next candidate for prime minister should be chosen by popular referendum and picked from among five proposed candidates,” Sadr suggested in a statement on Twitter. He said protesters should meanwhile press their demands but reject violence.

The burning by demonstrators of the Iranian consulate in Najaf on Wednesday escalated unrest andRead More – Source

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