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.

 

Turkey warns post-coup crackdown ‘not completed yet’

ISIS claims deadly bombing in Syria Kurdish city

Egypt has asked IMF for financial support

Shabaab says suicide bomber was ex-Somali MP

Cirque du Soleil calls off 40 shows in Turkey

Coalition opens formal investigation into Syria civilian deaths

Pope to journalists: 'World at war', but not a religious war

Egypt top Muslim cleric denounces murder of French priest

Russia denies meddling in US election campaign

Syria regime kills 16 civilians in Aleppo assault

Killer of France priest was 'Syria obsessed time-bomb'

Netanyahu defends war record after protest by parents of dead soldiers

44 dead in double bomb blast in Syria Kurdish city

Marketplace bomb in Yemen kills 7

Kuwait jails Shiite MP for insulting Arab Gulf states

Iran presidential election set for May 2017

Bahrain tries prominent Shiite cleric

Turkey planning anti-Gulen army purge before coup

Turkey issues more arrest warrants for journalists

Israeli raid kills Hamas member said to be behind attack

Saudi condemns "in the strongest terms" deadly attack on France church

Bahrain refers 138 ‘terror’ suspects to court

Brutal attacks reignite political friction in Germany

Weakened army still faces twin challenges in Turkey

Turkey detains top generals, prominent journalists in widening purge

Hamas 'summer camp' trains dozens of young people for war

Palestinians seek to sue Britain over 1917 Balfour Declaration

UN hopes Syria peace talks can resume late August

Israeli authorities destroy 11 Palestinian homes in Jerusalem

Libya demands explanation over presence of French troops

ISIS claims attack on French church in Normandy

Erdogan accuses EU of not paying up under migrant deal

Study: Height down in some MENA countries

Iran denies presence of three Al-Qaeda operatives

Iran caps salaries in bid to end scandal

Kerry says US-Russia talks on Syria 'making progress'

Erdogan to visit Russia on August 9

More than 3,000 lost in Mediterranean in 2016

13 killed in Somalia suicide bomb attacks

Panama Papers reveal Italian bribes' paid to Algerian officials

Syria regime advances on rebels in Aleppo

Turkey detains veteran female reporter

Russia ‘far from US positions’ on Syria

ISIS claims second German attack in a week

France calls for immediate humanitarian truce in Aleppo