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.

 

Netanyahu warns Hezbollah will pay 'full price'

Jordan wants to see proof pilot alive before exchange

Iraq government vows to investigate Diyala massacre

Libyan airline suspends flights

British mosques open doors to reach out to citizens

Women protest against Egypt police after fatal shooting

MSF withdraws help from two Sudan states

US says thousands of Somali children facing starvation

Kuwait online activists arrested 'over Saudi criticism'

Iran, Europe officials to meet Thursday in Istanbul

IS issues new deadline to kill Jordanian pilot if demand not met

African Union sees no military solution to Libya crisis

Yemen powerful militia prevents fresh protest in Sanaa

Iran appoints new UN ambassador after US visa refusal

Pentagon confirms US involvement in talks with Yemen Huthis

Hezbollah missiles threaten to spark new war in volatile region

In new website, France warns would-be jihadists: You will die alone

Israel retaliates against Hezbollah attack

Can Iraqis trust their government to rebuild their country?

Sheikh Ali Salman rejects charges as trial opens in Bahrain

Protesters try to storm UN headquarters in Gaza

UN peacekeeper killed in southern Lebanon amid border clash

Kobane in ruins after symbolic blow to jihadists

Jordan bows to IS demand

Hezbollah claims attack on Israeli military convoy

Somali PM proposes new cabinet list

Syria opposition groups, Assad representatives meet in Moscow

Yemen’s Huthis free top presidential aide

French FM urges international cooperation against extremism

Clock ticking towards 24-hour IS deadline to kill hostages

Obama, Saudi king discuss IS fight, Iran

Nine killed in luxury Tripoli hotel attack

Three killed in Tripoli luxury hotel attack

UN harshly criticises Turkey for deterioration of human rights

‘Islamic State’ gives Jordan 24 hours before execution of hostages

Ex-Shebab chief urges others to surrender in first public appearance

Bomb kills and wounds three terrorists in Egypt's Alexandria

Three killed in protest against MINUSMA in Mali

Humanitarian crisis looms for thousands of families in southern Iraq

Rockets fired from Syria explode in Israeli-occupied Golan Heights

Egypt Grand Mufti condemns actions of Muslim Brotherhood

Residents trickle back to Kobane after expulsion of jihadists

Obama comes to Saudi with heavyweight delegation

Cash-strapped UNRWA halts Gaza house repairs

Saudis pledge allegiance to new king on Twitter