First Published: 2013-01-02

 

Iraqi PM warns protesters patience running thin

 

Maliki offers prisoner release even as he threatens to use state resources to ‘intervene’ to end ongoing rallies.

 

Middle East Online

By Ammar Karim - BAGHDAD

The demonstrations continue

Iraqi premier Nuri al-Maliki looked to head off protests in Sunni areas of the country on Tuesday with a prisoner release even as he threatened to use state resources to "intervene" to end the rallies.

The move came as powerful Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr voiced support for the demonstrations and predicted an impending "Iraqi spring" as ongoing rallies blocked off a key trade route connecting Iraq to Syria and Jordan for a 10th successive day.

Maliki, who is Shiite, ordered the release of more than 700 female detainees, a key demand of demonstrators, the official appointed to negotiate with protesters, said.

"The prime minister will write to the president to issue a special amnesty to release them," Khaled al-Mullah said.

Mullah said of 920 female prisoners in Iraqi jails, 210 had been accused or convicted of terrorism-related offences and could not be released. But, he said, they would be transferred to prisons in their home provinces.

The remaining detainees, convicted on lower-level charges, would be released, he said. He did not give a timeframe for the process.

On Monday Maliki warned protesters blocking the highway to Syria and Jordan that his patience was running thin.

The demonstrators should "end their strike before the state intervenes to end it," he said in an interview with the state broadcaster Iraqiya, in an apparent reference that he could order the use of military force.

Addressing the protesters he said: "I warn you against continuing (blocking the highway), because this is against the Iraqi constitution.

"We have been very patient with you."

The rallies began on December 23, sparked by the arrest of at least nine guards of Finance Minister Rafa al-Essawi, a Sunni Arab and a leading member of the secular Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc which, while part of Maliki's unity government, frequently criticises him in public.

Protesters in mostly Sunni areas of Iraq's west and north have alleged that the Shiite-led authorities use anti-terror legislation to target their minority community.

The rallies were given a boost on Tuesday, when powerful Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr backed the demonstrations, and predicted that "an Iraqi spring is coming, if things stay the way they are."

"The demonstrations will continue as long as policies do not satisfy the people," he said at a news conference at his home in the central Iraqi city of Najaf.

Sadr's movement counts 40 lawmakers and five ministers among its supporters, and his Mahdi Army was once one of the most feared militias in the country, though it has since sworn off violence.

 

US says Assad may be preparing another chemical attack

Over 8,000 migrants rescued in Med in 48 hours

Yemen cholera outbreak shows signs of slowing

Rouhani seizes opportunity to get closer to Qatar

Eid revives Tunisian tradition of pastry making

Hamas says travel documents for sick Gazans being refused

Former Syrian defence minister Mustafa Tlass dies in Paris

Iran says US reinstating travel ban 'regrettable'

GCC construction outlook to improve with oil prices recovery and implementation of reforms

57 dead in US-led strikes on IS Syria prison

Kremlin denounces US ‘threats’ against Assad

Mattis says US wants to steer clear of war in Syria

Mali activists call for referendum to be abandoned

Iraq forces battle deep into devastated Old Mosul

Iraqi forces control two thirds of Mosul Old City

Banned Bahraini newspaper fires staff

New crown prince widely welcomed in Saudi Arabia

Assad leads Eid prayers in Syria’s Hama

Lone-wolf attacks raise concern about new trend in terror

Erdogan slams Saudi demands of Qatar as illegal

Sudan making 'positive' steps on meeting US sanctions terms

Mecca suicide bombing injures six

Gulf crisis heats up as Qatar receives list of demands

Suicide attacks kill at least three people in Mosul

Civilians killed in Iraq suicide bomb attacks

UN warns Yemen cholera outbreak could infect 300,000 by September

Putin launches deep-water phase of TurkStream pipeline

Berlin warns Ankara against meddling in religious affairs

Asian states downplay 'Russia proposal' to send troops to Syria

Iran’s Salehi urges West to save historic nuclear deal

Iran, allies mark Jerusalem Day with rallies

US-led Syria strikes kill 472 civilians in one month

Morocco dismantles 'IS-linked cell plotting tourist attacks'

France sets out tough new anti-terror law

Russia warships, submarine strike IS targets in Syria

Trump-Saudi ties help pave way for new Saudi crown prince

Makeshift clinic saves lives near Syria’s Raqa

Egyptian fuel helps restart Gaza power station

Rights groups say Morocco protest leader 'severely beaten' during arrest

5 killed in Mogadishu car bomb attack

UN experts urge Egypt to halt executions after 'flawed trials'

Qatar emir congratulates newly-appointed Saudi crown prince

Kushner hails 'productive' Palestine-Israel talks

Macron says removing Assad no longer priority in Syria

Turkey sends first aid ship to isolated ally Qatar