Oman Observer

Iraq parliament holds emergency talks as Basra burns

BAGHDAD: Iraqi lawmakers met on Saturday in emergency session to discuss the crisis in public services in main southern city Basra after 12 protesters were killed this week, the Iranian consulate torched and its airport hit by rockets.
Prime Minister Haider al Abadi described the unrest as “political sabotage” as he joined the session along with several ministers, charging that “the question of public services” was being exploited for political ends.
His government has announced the allocation of an unspecified amount of extra funds for Basra, although demonstrators say that billions of dollars in emergency funding pledged in July has failed to materialise.
In a session attended by 172 deputies in the 329-seat house, Abadi traded barbs with Basra’s governor, Asaad al Eidani, who is also parliament speaker.
Basra has been rocked by protests since Tuesday, with demonstrators setting ablaze government buildings, the Iranian consulate and the offices of militias and political parties.
The anger flared after the hospitalisation of 30,000 people who had drunk polluted water, in an oil-rich region where residents have for weeks complained of water and electricity shortages, corruption among officials and unemployment.
At least 12 demonstrators have been killed and 50 wounded in clashes with security forces, according to the interior ministry.
Hours before parliament met, four rockets fired by unidentified assailants struck inside the perimeter of Basra airport, security sources said.
Staff at the airport, which is located near the US consulate in Basra, said flights were not affected.
The attack came after a day of rage in the southern city where hundreds of protesters stormed the fortified Iranian consulate, causing no casualties but sparking condemnation.
Abadi said he had instructed security forces to “act decisively against the acts of vandalism that accompanied the demonstrations”.
Iraq’s Joint Operations Command, which includes the army and police, vowed a “severe” response with “exceptional security measures”, including a ban on protests and group travel.
The foreign ministry called the attack on the consulate “an unacceptable act undermining the interests of Iraq and its international relations”.
Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghassemi denounced the “savage attack”, Iran’s Fars news agency reported.
A spokesman for the consulate said that all diplomats and staff had been evacuated from the building before the protesters attacked, and that nobody was hurt. — AFP