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Supporters turn tables on Iraqi Premier

An Iraqi protester gestures the v-sign during a demonstration against state corruption, failing public services and unemployment at Tayaran square in Baghdad on October 2, 2019. - Iraq's president and the United Nations urged security forces to show restraint after two protesters were killed in clashes with police that other top officials blamed on "infiltrators." (Photo by AHMAD AL-RUBAYE / AFP)

BAGHDAD: Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi’s two main backers have agreed to work to remove him from office as protests against his government gained momentum in Baghdad and much of the Shi’ite south only to be met with violence.

Populist Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who leads parliament’s largest bloc, had asked Abdul Mahdi to call an early election. When the premier refused, he called on his main political rival Hadi al-Amiri to help oust him.

Amiri, who leads a parliamentary alliance of Iran-backed Shi’ite militia that holds the second-largest amount of seats in parliament behind Sadr’s alliance – issued a statement late on Tuesday agreeing to help oust the prime minister.

“We will work together to secure the interests of the Iraqi people and save the nation in accordance with the public good,” Amiri said in a statement.

Abdul Mahdi took office just a year ago after weeks of political deadlock in which Sadr and Amiri both failed to secure enough votes to form a government. They appointed Abdul Mahdi as a compromise candidate to lead a fragile coalition government. Mass protests driven by discontent over economic hardship and corruption have broken nearly two years of relative stability in Iraq. At least 250 people have been killed since the unrest started on Oct. 1.

Agencies add: The UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert on Tuesday called for holding national dialogue to resolve the ongoing anti-government protests in Iraq.

Hennis-Plasschaert, quoted by a statement issued by the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), condemned the rising toll in the violent protests, citing that “violence is never the answer, the protection of life is the overriding imperative.”

She said that the protests across Iraq, particularly in Karbala, are alarming as witness reports indicated that “live fire was used against demonstrators, causing high numbers of casualties.”

Hennis-Plasschaert, also head of the UNAMI, said “a national dialogue is urgently needed to find prompt, meaningful responses.”

“This vicious cycle of violence must end,” she said, adding that the UN stands with the Iraqi people and is ready to assist in this dialogue.

Earlier in the day, Iraqi authorities said that scores of protesters and security members were wounded in the central city of Karbala during anti-government protests over unemployment, corruption and lack of public services.

One person was killed 193 others, including 143 security personnel and 50 protesters, were wounded in the overnight protests in Karbala, the Iraqi Independent High Commission for Human Rights said in a statement.

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