Iraq: Second seizure of Iraqi Parliament results in 125 injuries

Muqtada al Sadr supporter inside the Iraqi Parliament. – Ameer Al-Mohammedawi/dpa

A total of 125 people, including 25 members of the Iraqi security forces, have been injured in clashes in Baghdad between the police and the army on the one hand, and thousands of supporters of the cleric Muqtada al Sadr on the other, who on Saturday have retaken the Parliament and paralyzed the Iraqi capital in protest against the candidacy of the pro-Iranian Shiite politician Mohamed Shia al Sudani, rival of the cleric, to the post of prime minister.

Most of the capital’s bridges and its main roads are paralyzed while supporters of the religious man have surrounded the headquarters of the Federal Judicial Council as well as the Supreme Court, while the country’s political leaders, with the current prime minister, Mostafa al Kazemi, at the head, have called for calm.

Faced with the sit-in inside the Parliament that the demonstrators have begun to stage, who have re-entered the chamber after doing so for the first time on Wednesday, the president of the institution, Mohamed al Halbusi, has asked the security services of the hemicycle to refrain from using violence against the supporters of Al Sadr.

«Al Halbusi has ordered the parliament’s protection services not to attack or harm the demonstrators, and not to carry weapons inside the chamber,» according to a note picked up by INA.

Similarly, the Speaker of Parliament has ordered the General Secretariat of the House of Representatives to be present in the chamber to dialogue with the participants in the sit-in and subsequently announced the suspension of all sessions until further notice.

In his announcement, Al Halbusi called on the government to protect state institutions and on the political parties to engage in a peaceful dialogue, as called for by the country’s Prime Minister Mostafa al Kazemi.

CALLS FOR DIALOGUE Prime Minister Mostafa al-Kazemi appeared urgently before the nation on Saturday to call on Iraqi political forces to immediately launch a political dialogue to resume the stalled government talks.

«The political blocs must sit down, negotiate and reach an understanding for the sake of Iraq and Iraqis, and the language of betrayal and exclusion must be avoided, and a high and inclusive patriotic spirit must be shown,» al-Kazemi said.

The UN mission in Iraq also called for «reason and wisdom» to «prevent further violence» for the benefit of all Iraqis, according to a statement carried by the official Iraqi news agency INA.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad has called on political forces for restraint and to avoid violence. «We are closely following today’s protests in Baghdad and are concerned about reports of violence. The right to peaceful protest and freedom of expression are enshrined in the Constitution,» he recalled.

«We join the call by parties across the political spectrum for calm, to avoid violence and to resolve political differences through a peaceful process guided by the Iraqi Constitution,» the Embassy added.

The calls for calm in recent hours have been joined by the Arab League, whose secretary general, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, has called on all Iraqi forces to defuse the prevailing tension.

The Secretary General’s spokesman, Jamal Rushdie, has declared that his superior «is closely following the course of the current crisis in Iraq, and that he joins his voice with the voice of the wise Iraqi leaders so that all take responsibility, that all parties act prudently and put the interest of Iraq above all else», according to statements reported by the official Iraqi news agency INA.

The cleric Muqtada al Sadr, whose Sayirun coalition won last year’s legislative elections, has been denouncing for months the incapacity of the rest of the political forces to form a new government, and has assured that the pro-Iranian group to which the candidate Al Sudani belongs, Marco de Coordinación, the big loser in the elections, should not have a presence in the new Executive.

However, and after the resignation in June of the Saderite parliamentary bloc due to the deadlock in the negotiations, the pro-Iranian group decided to step forward and present the former Minister of Labor and Social Affairs as candidate.

Iraq is already going through its longest period of government negotiations since the first elections held in 2005 under US auspices; a situation that has led both the country’s population and political class into a state of permanent frustration and prevented OPEC’s second largest oil producer from reaping the benefits of rising oil prices.

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