Tens of thousands of Sadr supporters have been preparing for a days-long sit-in in central Baghdad aimed at pressuring the government to implement deeper political reforms.
The Iraqi government cited "security concerns" for its decision, but a row between the prime minister and Sadr, who has threatened to have his followers storm the Green Zone - the home of the government - could be a factor.
"Staging a sit-in is not permitted by law, especially in the current security circumstances, notably the threat by terrorist groups and the potential for this gathering to be targeted," a cabinet statement said Wednesday.
"The security forces are busy with the fight against Daesh [Islamic State group] and it is not possible to guarantee the protection of this gathering at all times," it said.
|A month ago, the Shia cleric gave Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi 45 days to present the names of technocrats for a new government.|
The cabinet stressed that it "supports the demonstrations demanding government reforms" and has protected one-day protests by the Sadr movement in recent weeks.
The Najaf-based Sadr had urged his supporters on March 12 to prepare tents for a protest camp supposed to begin Friday and supposed to last in ten days when an ultimatum he gave the government to implement reforms passes.
A month ago, the Shia cleric gave Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi 45 days to present the names of technocrats for a new government.
Sadrists have held a series of mass rallies in central Baghdad, with tens of thousands turning out last week for the latest protest to press their demands.
The presence a week earlier of armed Sadr supporters outside the Green Zone - where Abadi's office, parliament and the US embassy are located - sparked intense security concerns.
In the protest that he attended in Baghdad three week ago, Sadr threatened that his supporters could storm the Green Zone if their demands were not met.