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Iraq's Abadi says water projects in the works for troubled Basra

Abadi is clinging on to power by a thread [AFP]

Date of publication: 13 September, 2018

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Iraq's troubled Basra, could see new development projects to deal with the southern city's water problems.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced a series of new public work projects in the restless southern city of Basra, on Thursday.

It follows protests and violence last week in Basra, with 12 people involved in demonstrations killed in the troubles.

Abadi has visited the oil-rich city this week, forcing back a key parliamentary meeting that could allow the prime minister's political rivals to form a government without him.

Following the tour of the troubled southern city, Abadi promised more jobs and development for Basra.

He said advisers would "assure the immediate implementation" of new water pumping, routing and filtration projects for Basra, which has been hit by outbreaks of sickness blame on pollution in the city's water supplies.

Demonstrations broke out last week with protesters rallying against poor services and corruption among Iraqi officials.

Abadi has also called for unity, as disagreements among political parties appear set to cause further problems.

Parliament is set to elect a new speaker on Saturday, which comes after lawmakers met in parliament at the weekend with questions over Abadi's ability to stay on as premier.

Iraq's top two parliamentary blocs have called on him to step down over the crisis in Basra.

"I renew the call for the political blocs in the parliament to accelerate the nomination of the speaker of the house, then the presidency of the republic," Abadi said. 

"Then the nomination of the candidate of the biggest bloc for the prime minister post away from the political party quotas and to agree on the government programme that we have submitted that guarantees the benefits of the security and economic achievements of our government."

Cleric Muqtada Sadr, whose bloc won the 12 May elections, distanced himself from his one-time ally Abadi. An alliance of pro-Iranian former fighters led by Hadi al-Ameri said it would work with Sadr to form a new government that excludes the premier.

Just a day later, Abadi said that he was "not set on a second term".

Saturday's vote will give a better idea of which bloc will be able to form the future cabinet.

On Wednesday, Sadr hosted Ameri in the southern city of Najaf, but the two leaders did not comment on the meeting.

Abadi said the government had decided to increase the salaries of fighters' in the powerful pro-Tehran Hashd al-Shaabi paramilitary force, and make wages "equal to that of the armed forces". 

Formed in 2014, the Hashd al-Shaabi - made up of mostly Shia militias - played a key role in pushing back the Islamic State group.

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