First Published: 2013-01-09


Under pressure Maliki: protesters abusing freedom


Iraqi PM says committee has been formed to consider some of protesters' demands, but warns security forces could intervene.


Middle East Online

By Salam Faraj - BAGHDAD

Carrot or stick?

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki accused anti-government protesters who have blocked off a key trade route for two weeks of abusing their freedoms and causing "chaos", in a speech on Wednesday.

Maliki said security forces could intervene to end the protests, which have swept Sunni-majority provinces in western and northern Iraq since December 23, but also renewed an offer to consider some of the demonstrators' demands.

The protests were sparked by the December 20 arrest of at least nine guards of Sunni Finance Minister Rafa al-Essawi. One has cut the main highway between Baghdad and the Jordanian and Syrian borders.

Demonstrators have accused the Shiite-led authorities of persecuting Iraq's Sunni Arab minority community and have called for the release of prisoners from jails and reform of anti-terror laws.

"Freedom for those who do not understand its meaning is chaos and the law of the jungle," Maliki said in a speech in central Baghdad marking the 91st anniversary of the founding of Iraq's police force.

"There is a difference between a peaceful rally and an act of disobedience, and blocking off a highway.

"Freedom is not when a media outlet turns into a means of juggling and inciting riots and accusing this or that official and offending this or that constituent," he added.

He continued: "There is no country in the world that tolerates a blockade of highways."

Maliki said that cabinet had formed a committee to consider some of the protesters' demands, but added that the security forces could still intervene.

"If rallies go on without permission, or carry banners that compromise national security or private work, security should prevent them," he said.

He charged that there were some who wanted the security forces to step in "to clash with protesters, so that they can say there is dictatorship in Iraq".

"We are not being unjust and we do not want anyone to be treated unfairly but we cannot accept imposition or being dictated to," the premier said.

The demonstrations have largely been split along sectarian lines -- pro-government rallies in southern Iraq have been predominantly Shiite and protests in northern and western Iraq mostly Sunni.

But powerful Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has publicly backed the anti-government rallies.

The demonstrations come barely three months before provincial council elections, the country's first vote since parliamentary polls in March 2010.


Nobel Peace Prize goes to Tunisian democracy group

UN envoy proposes Libya unity government led by Sarraj

Iran Revolutionary Guards commander killed in Syria

IS militants advance on Syria's Aleppo

Russian volunteers fighting for Assad regime

Jew stabs four Arabs in southern Israel

At least 13 killed in Yemen wedding bombing

Three more stabbing attacks as Palestine-Israel violence continues

Violence in Jerusalem continues

Turkey gives EU's migrant plan offer lukewarm reception

Erdogan uses nuclear, gas deals to pressure Russia over Syria

HRW urges statement from West over imprisoned Bahrain dissidents

EU aim to have migrant 'hotspots' ready by end of November ‘unrealistic’

Israeli PM bars ministers from Al-Aqsa compound

US has not yet made decision on Syria no-fly zone

After nuclear deal, Iran takes central role to end Syria war

Escape or temporary move: Erdogan son settles in Italy

ISIS attack complicates task for Arab coalition in Yemen

Syria army launches broad ground operation in Hama province

Israel-Palestinian unrest at risk of turning into religious war

Number of confirmed cholera cases rises to 1,200 in Iraq

Russia ‘ready’ to establish contacts with Free Syrian Army

Turkey arrests six people over 'minting coins for ISIS’

US insists no military cooperation with Russia in Syria conflict

Russia warships fire cruise missiles to back Syria army operation

New violence rocks Israel, West Bank

Mortar attack wounds Lebanon soldiers near border with Syria

Iraq forces recapture several areas around Ramadi

Saleh’s party ‘ready’ for UN-brokered Yemen peace

Erdogan’s vision of Syria’s future torn up by Putin

IS bombings will not deter Yemen govt from staying in Aden

EU to ease Turkey migrant burden on conditions

EU kicks off military operation against ‘mafia of the sea’

Russia air strikes targeting Chechen jihadists in Syria

Russia examining US proposals to coordinate Syria strikes

Russia hints at willingness on Syria 'deconfliction' with US

France may strip five terrorists of nationality

Israel demolition policy: Collective punishment in violation of international law

Violence in Yemen may trigger world's next great refugee crisis

EU to 'step up' work on resettlement of refugees from Turkey

Tunisia dismantles three ISIS recruitment cells

Russia not cooperating with US in Syria safety talks

Halal economy set to grow worldwide

‘Islamic State’ claims series of deadly attacks in Yemen

Recent unrest leaves Netanyahu with tough political choices