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Iraq's Sadr turns up the heat on embattled government

Sadr has given Abadi 24 hours to form a cabinet of technocrats [AFP]

Date of publication: 25 March, 2016

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Three Iraq ministers have resigned as Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr gave the government a one day ultimatum to form a cabinet of technocrats or face mass protests.

Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has given Prime Minister Haidar Abadi 24 hours to form a cabinet of technocrats meant to replace party-affiliated politicians accused of perpetuating a system based on nepotism and patronage.

Addressing his followers during Friday prayers outside the main gates of Baghdad's restricted Green Zone, Sadr vowed to support any "reasonable" reforms proposed by Abadi, threatening to launch protests against any MPs who do not vote in favour of the reforms.

Asaad al-Nasseri, the Friday prayer preacher, also threatened to escalate against the government if it fails to form a new cabinet by the end of Sadr's deadline, calling to hold corrupt officials accountable for what has become of Iraq today.

"Our enemy; the Islamic State, and corrupt politicians all aim to destroy and drain the Iraqi people," he said, describing the Green Zone as a "barren" area.

On Friday morning, Sadr's followers responded to his calls and set up a protest camp outside the Green Zone, which houses Abadi's office, parliament and foreign embassies, to pressure the government into a swift cabinet reshuffle.

The protest camps were not authorised but no incident has been reported so far and the demonstrators even bonded with the security forces.

But the mood could change when the deadline expires as Sadr has threatened that his supporters will storm the Green Zone if their demands are not met.

On Friday morning, Sadr's followers responded to his calls and set up a protest camp outside the Green Zone,

Cabinet resignations

On Thursday, three Iraqi ministers – who are also members of the Muwatin ["Citizen"] coalition – submitted their resignations to Abadi.

The officials who resigned are oil minister Adel Abdel Mahdi, transport minister Baqer Solagh and youth minister Abdel Hussein Abtan.

According to coalition member Fadi al-Shamri, the ministers resigned because the coalition refused to be part of the current state of "chaos".

Shamri also revealed in a TV interview that steps were underway to form a cross-sectarian reformist front with a unified vision.

Meanwhile, a coalition source told The New Arab that the ministrs suspended their attendance in Cabinet meetings until their final resignations are accepted.

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