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Iraq's Sistani calls for new government, cites unrest

Sheikh Abdul Mehdi al-Karbalai, a representative of Sistani, gives a sermon in Karbala [Getty]

Date of publication: 27 July, 2018

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Thousands of Iraqis have protested in recent weeks against a lack of government services.
Iraq's leading Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, called on the country's leaders to form a new government immediately, citing the need to tackle corruption and provide basic services.
The sermon was delivered by a representative, Sheikh Abdul Mahdi al-Karbalai, and it urged Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to respond to protesters' demands.

"The current government must work hard urgently to implement citizens' demands to reduce their suffering and misery," al-Karbalai said from Karbala.

Iraq's politicians have been unable to form a government two months after the May 12 election, which was marred by accusations of voter fraud that led to a partial recount. 

On July 8, protests erupted in oil-rich Basra and quickly spread across the country. Thousands have demonstrated, particularly in the majority Shia south, citing the lack of  government services.

Human Rights Watch previously investigated eight of the protests, in six of which security forces allegedly fired live ammunition, wounding at least seven protesters. 

At least 11 people have died since the demonstrations began.

Protesters have accused authorities of deliberately cutting internet access before security forces move in to prevent demonstrators sharing footage of abuses online.

During Friday's sermon, Sistani's representative said fighting corruption would be a major priority of a new government. 

"He [the new prime minister] must launch a relentless war against the corrupted and those who protect them," al-Karabalai said.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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