Iraqi protester killed at university sit-in demonstrations

NASIRIYAH, Iraq: One protester was killed on Monday in Iraq’s southern city of Nasiriyah after university security guards opened fire on demonstrators trying to block the campus entrance, medical sources said.
Desperate to keep up their anti-government movement, which appears to be fading after more than four months, a group of protesters had briefly shut down several campuses in the city.
More than 540 Iraqis have been killed in protest-related violence since the rallies erupted, according to a recent toll by the Iraqi Human Rights Commission.
Last week, Iraq’s interior minister ordered reinforcements to deploy at schools, universities and public offices to ensure they re-open in full after prolonged sit-ins by protesters.
Their rallies demanding the ouster of the entire governing class broke out in October and have mainly relied on civil disobedience tactics to put pressure on authorities, which have however resisted any profound reforms.
As schools and roads reopen, the numbers in protest squares across the country have dwindled but students have sought to maintain momentum with regular marches.
They have opposed the nomination of Mohammad Allawi as Iraq’s new premier, slamming the two-time communications minister as too close to the political elite they have been demonstrating against for months.
Allawi has until March 2 to form a government, which will have to be approved by a parliamentary vote.
Meanwhile, the United States has agreed to extend a waiver for Iraq to import Iranian energy supplies, including gas, two Iraqi government officials said on Monday.
Washington has repeatedly extended the exemption for Baghdad to use crucial Iranian energy supplies for its power grid, for periods of 90 or 120 days. One of the officials said this latest extension would last 120 days.
The extension was agreed because Iraq had shown it was taking steps towards becoming more self-reliant for its energy needs, one of the officials said, and less dependent on Iran, whose energy sector is under harsh US sanctions.
“The waiver will be renewed because Iraq has undertaken important steps in investing in Iraqi gas,” one of the officials said. He said the recent Iraqi government approval of contracts to develop gas fields in the country’s east was a key factor.
— Reuters