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Iraqi PM urges protesters return home

China Daily | Updated: 2019-10-05 08:02
Protesters set fires and close a street during a demonstration in Baghdad, Iraq, on Thursday. [Photo by HADI MIZBAN/ASSOCIATED PRESS]

BAGHDAD - Iraq's premier on Friday sent a message to protesters, saying their "legitimate demands" have been heard and urging them to go home while comparing security measures imposed in the wake of this week's violence, including a curfew, to "bitter medicine" that needs to be swallowed.

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi spoke in a televised address to the nation following three days of demonstrations that have spread across many provinces in the country.

"We will not make empty promises, ...or promise what we cannot achieve," Abdul-Mahdi said.

He said there is "no magic solution" to Iraq's problems but pledged to work on laws granting poor families a basic income, provide alternative housing to violators and fight corruption.

"The security measures we are taking, including temporary curfew, are difficult choices. But like bitter medicine, they are inevitable," he said. "We have to return life to normal in all provinces and respect the law."

The prime minister said protesters' calls to end corruption were "correct" but said the government must be helped to carry out its duties. Ministerial amendments must be approved by parliament.

It was not immediately clear what the protesters' response to Abdul-Mahdi's statements will be.

The death toll from three days of protests in Iraq climbed to 26 and more than 1,500 wounded people, as some protesters tried to rally in some areas on Thursday but were dispersed by the security forces, said Ali al-Bayati, a member of the Iraqi Independent High Commission for Human Rights.

He said that up to 1,509 people were wounded, including 401 security members, pointing out that most of them have left hospitals following treatment.

The rallies have erupted spontaneously, mostly spurred by youths demanding jobs, improved services such as electricity and water, and an end to endemic corruption in the oil-rich country.

Demonstrations erupted in the capital Baghdad and in several provinces across Iraq on Tuesday and Wednesday, but later turned violent in Baghdad as clashes erupted with the police.

The protests also spread to other Iraqi provinces when hundreds of protesters attacked and burned several provincial government buildings and offices of leading political parties.

On Thursday, sporadic protests continued during the day despite a curfew that was imposed in Baghdad starting from 5:00 am local time on Thursday. It will continue until further notice.

Agencies - Xinhua

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