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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 17 August 2018

Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani calls for new Iraq government to be formed as soon as possible

Amid weeks of deadly demonstrations, the Ayatollah also encouraged Haider Al Abadi to respond to protesters' demands

A member of the Hashed al-Shaabi carries a portrait of Iraqi Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani in a street in the southern city of Basra. AFP 
A member of the Hashed al-Shaabi carries a portrait of Iraqi Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani in a street in the southern city of Basra. AFP 

Iraq's most senior Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani called on Friday for a government to be formed "as soon as possible" to tackle corruption and poor basic services.

In a Friday sermon delivered by a representative, Ayatollah Sistani also encouraged the incumbent government of Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi to respond urgently to protesters' demands for jobs and better basic services.

Iraq is currently in political limbo as the country looks to form a new government after populist cleric Moqtada Al Sadr's surprise poll win saw long-time political figures pushed out by voters seeking change in a country mired in conflict and corruption.

"The current government must work hard urgently to implement citizens' demands to reduce their suffering and misery," the Ayatollah's representative said in the Shiite holy city of Kerbala.

The announcement follows weeks of deadly protests in Iraq's south, where thousands of demonstrators have taken to the streets to call for basic services, including water and electricity.

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Read more:

Fifteen years after the US-led invasion, the Iraqi state still isn't getting the basics right. It is running out of time

The leaderless protests of southern Iraq see years of neglect boil over

Iraq PM looks to calm Basra unrest as demos spread

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Stagnant water with sewage has caused health problems and tap water is sometimes contaminated with mud and dust. Electricity is cut off for seven hours a day.

The hostility is largely directed towards a political elite deemed corrupt at a time when the feeling that politicians are unreliable is at an all-time high.

Over the past week, protesters have attacked government buildings and branches of political powerful Shiite militias.

A Baghdad-based war monitor and rights group has put the number of protesters killed and wounded in recent demonstrations across the south of the country at more than 800.

“The clashes between security forces and protesters in Iraq’s south and centre left 831 people dead and injured since the start of the demonstrations 10 days ago,” Mostafa Saadon, a spokesman for the Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights said.

Mr Saadon also warned that Iraqi authorities were carrying out a large-scale search to find and arrest demonstrators.

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