UN and US call on Iraq govt. for reforms, hold early elections


The Iraqi government is urged by the United Nations and the United States to stop using violence against protesters, pass electoral reforms and hold early elections.

At least 319 people have been killed at the protests, where security forces have fired live rounds and tear gas.

Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have taken to the streets since October 01 to demand more jobs, an end to corruption, and better public services.

After a meeting in Baghdad on Sunday, Iraqi President BarhamSaleh, Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, Parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi and Supreme Judicial Council head Fayek Zaydan stressed that the protests were legitimate.They also said they agreed on the need for “radical reform” and were preparing for a national dialogue to “review the ruling system and the constitution”.

More than a dozen people have been killed in recent days as security forces have sought to clear protest sites in the capital, Baghdad, and in the southern cities of Basra and Nasiriya.

Overnight, four protesters died in clashes outside the education directorate in Nasiriya, the semi-official Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights reported.

The UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (Unami) warned on Sunday that an accumulation of frustrations about the lack of progress in Iraq since the US-led invasion in 2003 was “clearly perceptible”, and that with the rising numbers of deaths “a climate of anger and fear” had set in.

“The Iraqi people cannot afford to be held back by the past nor by partisan interests. Rising hope asks for a leap forward,” it added.

The mission called on Iraqi politicians to take a series of measures to help end the crisis.

The immediate steps were:

Releasing all peaceful demonstrators detained over the past six weeks

Initiating full investigations into cases of abduction

Prosecuting those responsible for the excessive use of force and other violent acts

Calling on all regional and international parties not to interfere in Iraq’s internal affairs

The short-term measures, to be taken within two weeks, included:

Submitting a new electoral law to parliament

Implementing an executive order prohibiting any weapons outside state control

A public declaration by the “political elite” of all their assets

UN special representative Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert discussed the proposals with Iraq’s most influential Shia Muslim cleric in Najaf, south of Baghdad, on Monday.

She cited Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani as saying that he “supports the conduct of serious reforms in a reasonable period of time.”

The White House also said it was seriously concerned by the deaths of protesters.

“The United States joins the UN Assistance Mission to Iraq in calling on the Iraqi government to halt the violence against protesters and fulfil President Saleh’s promise to pass electoral reform and hold early elections.”

Neither the US nor the UN mentioned one of the protesters’ key demands, which is for the resignation of the prime minister. Mr Abdul Mahdi has said he is willing to step down once the main blocs in parliament can agree on a replacement. (Source: BBC)