Iraq PM urged to quit as key ally deserts him

BAGHDAD: Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi faced calls to resign on Saturday as his alliance with a populist cleric who won May elections crumbled over deadly unrest shaking the country’s south.
The two leading groups in parliament called on Abadi to step down, after lawmakers held an emergency meeting on the public anger boiling over in the southern city of Basra.
“We demand the government apologise to the people and resign immediately,” said Hassan al Aqouli, spokesman for the list of Moqtada Sadr that won the most seats in the election.
The announcement dealt a severe blow to Abadi’s hopes of holding onto his post through a bloc — described as the biggest in parliament — unveiled just days earlier with Sadr and more than a dozen other groups.
Ahmed al Assadi, spokesman for the second-largest list in parliament, the Conquest Alliance, condemned “the government’s failure to resolve the crisis in Basra”, where 12 protesters were killed last week in clashes with security forces.
The Conquest Alliance of former paramilitary fighters was “on the same wavelength” as Sadr’s Marching Towards Reform list and they would work together to form a new government, Assadi said.
Abadi defended his record in parliament, describing the unrest as “political sabotage” and saying the crisis over public services was being exploited for political ends.