Iraqi PM calls for protests to allow a return to 'normal life'

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said on Saturday that while protests were important in bringing about political reform, life in the country must now be allowed to return to normal.

Tens of thousands of people have protested throughout the country for weeks and dozens have been killed in clashes with security forces. Demonstrators are demanding an overhaul of the political system and decrying corruption in a ruling class that has dominated since the U.S.-led overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

"The protests have helped and will help pressure political groups, the government ... to reform and accept change. However continuing protests must allow for a return to normal life, which will lead to legitimate demands being met", Abdul Mahdi said in a statement.

In a nod to protesters demands, he acknowledged that political parties had made "many mistakes" in the past 16 years.

More than 280 people have been killed since the protests began in Baghdad on Oct. 1 and quickly spread to the country's southern provinces. Security forces continue to use live fire against demonstrators, in addition to tear gas canisters and stun grenades fired directly at protesters.

Abdul Mahdi, who announced a spate of reforms during the first wave of protests last month, added that new electoral reforms would be announced in the "coming few days".

He said the government and the judiciary would continue to investigate all deaths relating to the protests and "pursue all who assault, kidnap, or arrest" outside the law.

(Reporting by Ahmed Aboulenein and Raya Jalabi; Editing by Alexander Smith and Frances Kerry)

11/09/2019 11:59

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