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.


Turkey and the Islamic State

Al-Nusra Front frees Lebanese hostages in swap deal

US over-reliance on Kurds in anti-ISIS fight carries many risks

Yemen President reshuffles cabinet ‘to smooth differences’ with PM

Despite huge global pressure, labour exploitation continues in Qatar

Global warming could deprive planet of oxygen

US Special Ops will be deployed to fight IS jihadists in Iraq

Egypt arrests (another) prominent journalist

Israeli forces kill two Palestinians after alleged stabbing attacks

Putin accuses Turkey of protecting ISIS oil exports

Syrians reach deal for exit of rebels from last Homs district

Israeli advert accused of racism

Shelling from Yemen kills another Saudi border guard

Qaeda warns Saudi Arabia against executing jihadists

Iran denies any links to alleged terror plot in Kenya

Tunisia shortens curfew imposed in capital

German cabinet approves assistance to fight ISIS

Britain looks poised to join Syria air strikes

Mixed verdict by Israeli court for settlers who burned Palestinian teen alive

UAE says ready to commit ground troops in Syria

Iran pilgrims break through Iraq border fence

Syria regime denies chemical weapons use

Erdogan: Turkey will not apologise to Russia

3 Saudi soldiers killed on Yemen border

Syrians negotiate rebel exit from Homs

Frustration grows as Tunisia keeps border shut over deadly blast

France says cooperation with Syria not possible under Assad regime

Iran: Saudi plan for Syria ignores Vienna agreements

Iraq PM says country has sufficient forces to fight IS

Kuwait names new acting Oil Minister in cabinet reshuffle

Number of ISIS executions hits more than 3,500 in Syria alone

‘Russia’ air strikes kill at least 18 civilians in Ariha town in Syria

EU offers Turkey cash, closer ties at migration summit

Saudi women begin first-ever campaigns for public office

Bashir takes another step on path of rapprochement with Gulf countries

Iran wants closure of nuclear probe in order to implement deal

Iran General ‘seriously wounded’ in rocket attack in Syria

Turkey seeks to ease tensions with Moscow

Turkey protests against journalist arrests

Corbyn criticised over Syria air strike rejection

Saudi women begin first-ever election campaign

Russia prepares retaliation against Turkey

Tunisia to rethink anti-IS strategy

Cameron pushes for Britain to join Syria air strikes

Erdogan denies buying oil from IS