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US urges early Iraq polls, end to to violence against protesters


Iraqi protesters stand atop a concrete barricade at Baghdad’s Khallani square during ongoing anti-government demonstrations on November 11, 2019. – The United States has urged Iraq to hold early polls and carry out electoral reform, after a rights group warned a deadly crackdown on anti-government protesters could spiral into a “bloodbath”. Three protesters were shot dead in the southern city of Nasiriyah on November 10 while dozens of demonstrators were wounded in Baghdad. (Photo by SABAH ARAR / AFP)

The United States urged Iraqi authorities to hold early polls and carry out electoral reforms and called for an end to the violence that has left hundreds of protesters dead.

Washington wants “the Iraqi government to halt the violence against protesters and fulfil President (Barham) Saleh’s promise to pass electoral reform and hold early elections,” the White House said in a statement Sunday.

“The United States is seriously concerned by continued attacks against protestors, civic activists and the media, as well as restrictions on internet access, in Iraq,” it said.


Mass rallies calling for an overhaul of the ruling system have rocked the capital Baghdad and the Shiite-majority south since October 1, but political forces closed ranks this week to defend the government.

In a televised address last month, Saleh had proposed an early vote after reforms, but the suggestion seems to have been widely rejected by Iraq’s political class.

Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi cast them as unrealistic and even firebrand cleric Moqtada Sadr, who first demanded snap elections supervised by the United Nations last month, has gone silent.

In a meeting on Sunday among the country’s top leaders, the president, premier and speaker of parliament agreed on reforming Iraq’s electoral system but made no mention of an early vote.

The initial fissures among the political elite appear to have closed this week following a series of meetings led by Major General Qasem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ foreign operations arm.

A source close to the top decision-makers told AFP that Saleh had angered neighbouring Iran by suggesting the premier could resign.

Parliament’s human rights committee says that 319 people have been killed since protests first erupted, including demonstrators and security forces.

The committee said snipers were active near protest sites and hunting rifles were used against demonstrators as well.


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