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.

 

Jeddah meeting bears no fruit on Yemen conflict

Tunisia parliament to vote on cabinet proposal

Turkey shells Kurdish fighters in Syria after warning

Oil prices fall on Saudi doubt on output cut

French court suspends burkini ban

Israeli troops shoot dead Palestinian in occupied West Bank

11 Turkish police officers killed in Cizre bomb attack claimed by PKK

Tears as evacuation starts in Syria's Daraya

Turkey PM denies Syria operation singling out Kurds

Kerry, Lavrov meet for talks on Syria

Kuwait arrests govt employee promoting IS online

Kerry in Saudi for talks on regional conflicts

UN Syria envoy expects 'impact' from Kerry-Lavrov meeting

Iraq parliament votes to impeach defense minister

Russia says will cooperate in Syria chemical attacks probe

Iraq forces take key town south of Mosul

Hamas to leave name off ballot in Palestinian elections

Iranian navy in 'unsafe' intercept of US destroyer

Three wounded in PKK attack on Turkey opposition chief's convoy

Erdogan to inaugurate Istanbul's third Bosphorus bridge

China to train Syrian troops

Turkey reinforces ground forces across border into Syria

Turkey says 'every right' to intervene if Kurds fail to withdraw

UN rights chief urges international probe of Yemen violations

Tunisia unity government to remain unchanged

Raped teen who took own life finally gets justice in Morocco

Syria rebels backed by Turkey tanks 'seize' Jarabulus

Libya's presidential council to present new cabinet

Syria regime, Kurds blast Turkish incursion

Biden: Washington told Kurds not to cross Euphrates

Israeli court shuns plea to unchain Palestinian hunger striker

Saudi police foil mosque suicide bombing

Kerry to meet Russia's Lavrov in Geneva on Friday

Kurdish forces in Syria prime target for Turkey

Drone strike kills 2 Qaeda suspects in Yemen

Iran yet to decide on OPEC limits

Iraq forces advance south of Mosul

Muslim women say swimsuit uproar is 'absurd'

Gaza animals leave 'world's worst' zoo

Hasakeh: key flashpoint for Syria regime, Kurds

Kerry heads to Saudi on Yemen peace push

British woman killed in Australian stabbing

Hajj stoning to be shortened after deadly stampede

Turkey launches operation to clear Syria border town from IS

Israel raids West Bank arms factories