Iraq factions reach deal to save government, protests to end soon

Iraqi PM calls for protests to allow a return to 'normal life'

Iraq factions reach deal to save government, protests to end soon

Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi had already laid out a series of reforms during the first round of protests that would've satisfied many, but he never delivered on them, which is why protests restarted.

In Basra, seven protesters were killed in confrontations on Thursday and early Friday, with security forces trying to reopen roads blocked by sit-ins, medical sources said.

Netblocks, a group that monitors worldwide internet access, reported a major shutdown by Iraqi authorities as of Monday, with usage in Baghdad and southern Iraq dropping to 19% of normal levels.

Protesters are now on the back foot but still occupy part of the al-Jumhuriya bridge which leads to the Green Zone, where parliament and the British and United States embassies are located. Protesters have tried to force their way across on an nearly daily basis.

Amid volleys of tear gas, security forces chased demonstrators back onto Al-Rasheed Street, one of Baghdad's oldest and most celebrated thoroughfares.

Handouts for the poor, promises to try corrupt officials and creation of more job opportunities for graduates have failed to placate protesters, whose demands include a new electoral system and the removal of all current political leaders.

Meanwhile, in Karbala, protesters' tents were reduced to ashes when security forces fired searing hot tear gas canisters at them.

More than a dozen demonstrators had died in the capital Baghdad and the southern port city of Basra within 24 hours, medical sources told AFP on Friday.

"Even if it comes down to the last man, we have to enter the Green Zone and bring it down", another protester shouted.

"We'll announce our people's revolution from there against everyone who stole from us - Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi, Qais al-Khazaali, Hadi al-Ameri!" he said.

When the protests erupted, Sadr threw his weight behind them while the Hashed backed the government. Government sources had told AFP ties between them had been cut after Saleh proposed the premier be replaced.

Amnesty International said the security forces have been using military-grade tear gas canisters made in Iran or Serbia that can be deadly if fired at point-blank range.

More than 280 people have been killed since the protests over unemployment, poor services and endemic corruption began in Baghdad on October 1 and quickly spread to southern provinces.

Officials say three protesters were shot dead while the fourth one was killed by a tear gas canister.

Police and medics said four people were killed and almost 100 wounded in Baghdad on Saturday.

Oil-rich Iraq is OPEC's second biggest producer, but one in five people live in poverty and youth unemployment stands at 25 percent, according to the World Bank.

Iraq fought a war with neighbouring Iran in the 1980s, was invaded by US-led forces in 2003 and waged a brutal battle against the militant Islamic State group that ended in late 2017.

On Friday, the country's top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani said there should be "no more procrastination" on finding a "roadmap" to end the crisis.

Late on Friday the military said 17 rockets had landed near a base hosting USA forces in northern Iraq.

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