Iraq’s top two parliament groups demand PM Abadi resign after Basra violence
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Iraq’s top two parliament groups demand PM Abadi resign after Basra violence

Demonstrators have set fire to government buildings, Iranian consulate, offices of pro-Tehran organizations

An Iraqi protester flashes the victory gesture outside outside the burning local government headquarters in the southern city of Basra on September 7, 2018 during demonstrations over poor public services. (AFP Photo/Haidar Mohammed Ali)
An Iraqi protester flashes the victory gesture outside outside the burning local government headquarters in the southern city of Basra on September 7, 2018 during demonstrations over poor public services. (AFP Photo/Haidar Mohammed Ali)

BAGHDAD — The two leading groups in Iraq’s parliament on Saturday called on Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to resign, after lawmakers held an emergency meeting on unrest shaking the country’s south.

“We demand the government apologize to the people and resign immediately,” said Hassan al-Aqouli, spokesman for the list of populist Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr that won the most seats in a May election.

The announcement dealt a severe blow to Abadi’s hopes of holding onto his post through a parliamentary bloc unveiled just days earlier with Sadr, a former militia chief.

Ahmed al-Assadi, spokesman for the second-largest list, the Conquest Alliance, condemned “the government’s failure to resolve the crisis in Basra,” a southern city where 12 protesters were killed this week in clashes with security forces.

The Conquest Alliance was “on the same wavelength” as Sadr’s Marching Towards Reform list and they would work together to form a new government, Assadi said.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi (C) speaks as he presents candidates running on his list during an electoral campaign rally in the holy Iraqi city of Karbala on May 4, 2018. (AFP Photo/Mohammed Sawaf)

Abadi defended his record in parliament, describing the unrest as “political sabotage” and saying the crisis over public services was being exploited for political ends.

Anger in Basra flared after the hospitalization of 30,000 people who had drunk polluted water, in an oil-rich region where residents have for weeks complained of water and electricity shortages, corruption among officials, and unemployment.

Demonstrators have set fire to government buildings, the Iranian consulate, and the offices of pro-Tehran militias and political parties.

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