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.

 

Egypt renews calls for creation of joint military force at Arab summit

Torturous Iran talks move into top gear in battle of wills

Qaeda seizes 'majority' of Syria northwestern city of Idlib

Saudi ambassador to return to Sweden after diplomatic spat

Oil prices fall after Yemen-inspired gains

Libya forces ‘withdraw’ from frontline bases near oil ports

UN Security Council keeps Libya arms embargo in place

Saudi-led airstrikes target arms depots in Yemen capital

Death toll from hotel attack rises as fighting continues in Somalia

Turkish parliament passes security bill after long debate

Turkey army chief of staff visits historic tomb inside Syria

Saudi-led coalition keeps up raids against Yemen rebels

Assad says open to dialogue with US

US backs Saudi-led intervention in Yemen

Heavy Saudi raids force Sanaa residents to flee

Israeli Arab MP walks for Bedouins

Gulf stocks regain ground after early losses over Yemen

Kerry presses Iran on nuclear deal before deadline

Somali pirates seize Iranian fishing vessel

Borse Dubai sells big stake in London Stock Exchange

Can Arabs form joint military force?

Libya rivals discuss UN-backed peace proposals

French President to join 'anti-terror' march in Tunis

Sisi underscores Egypt’s rights to tap Nile water

US-led coalition aircraft bomb Tikrit

Saudi warplanes strike Yemen rebels in Sanaa

Netanyahu to form Israel new government after shock victory

Turkey military responds to Kurdish attacks in southeast

Leaders see horror of air crash as investigators step up probe

Fistfight in Iraqi Kurdish parliament

Syria rebels seize ancient town of Busra Sham

UN reveals plethora of abuses against activists in Libya

IS attack kills 5 militia fighters in Libya city of Sirte

Yemen President ‘in safety’ as rebel forces advance

US considering launching air strikes on Tikrit

Yemen Huthis seizes key airbase near Aden

'Feminist' policy costing dear to Sweden

Obama says row with Netanyahu ‘substantive’

Tunisia honours victims of deadly attack on national museum

Roadside bomb kills two Egypt soldiers in restive Sinai

‘Islamic State’ woos Syria children with money: More than 400 recruited in 2015 alone

Huthi-led militia push on southern Yemen

US envoy to Libya leaves Twitter after barrage of online abuse

US provides 'eye in the sky' to support Iraq Tikrit operation

Turkey prosecutors launch probe as ruling party rift grows