Protesters storm Parliament in Baghdad’s ‘Green Zone’

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Iraqi protesters climb over a concrete wall surrounding the parliament (unseen) after breaking into Baghdad's heavily fortified "Green Zone" on Saturday. (AFP)
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FREE-FOR-ALL: Protesters throw stones at a vehicle they believe belongs to a lawmaker as they gather outside Parliament after breaking into Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone. (AFP)
Updated 30 April 2016
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Protesters storm Parliament in Baghdad’s ‘Green Zone’

BAGHDAD: Thousands of angry protesters broke into Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone on Saturday and stormed the Iraqi Parliament building after lawmakers again failed to approve new ministers.

Jubilant supporters of Shiite cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr invaded the main session hall, shouting slogans glorifying their leader and claiming that they had rooted out corruption.
The Iraqi capital was already on high alert for a major Shiite pilgrimage, participants in which were targeted in a bombing that killed 23 on Saturday, but extra security measures were taken after protesters stormed the Green Zone.
“You are not staying here! This is your last day in the Green Zone,” shouted one protester as thousands broke in.
Besides the Parliament compound, the restricted area in central Baghdad houses the presidential palace, the prime minister’s office and several embassies, including those of the United States and Britain.
Protesters attached cables to the tops of heavy concrete blast walls that surround the Green Zone, pulling them down to create an opening, an AFP journalist said.
They then headed to Parliament, where some rampaged through the building and broke into offices, while other protesters shouted “peacefully, peacefully” and tried to contain the destruction, another reporter said.
Security forces were present but did not try to prevent the demonstrators from entering the Parliament building, the reporter said.
Protesters pulled barbed wire across a road leading to one of the exits of the Green Zone, effectively preventing some scared lawmakers from fleeing the chaos.
They also attacked and damaged several vehicles they believed belonged to lawmakers.
Inside the main hall where lawmakers failed to reach a quorum earlier in the day, protesters sat in the MPs’ seats taking “selfies” and shouting slogans.
One protester called a friend on his mobile: “I am sitting in (Parliament speaker) Salim Al-Juburi’s chair, I have a meeting, we’ll talk later.”
We are the ones running this country now, the time of the corrupt is over, said another protester, as crowds filled rooms throughout the building.
Parliament failed to reach a quorum on Saturday after approving some of Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi’s ministerial nominees earlier in the week.
The Green Zone unrest kicked off as Sadr ended a news conference in the holy Shiite city of Najaf during which he condemned the political deadlock.
He had threatened to have his supporters storm the Green Zone last month, but did not order them to enter the area in his Saturday address.
The politicians “refused to end corruption and refused to end quotas,” Sadr said, adding that he and his supporters would not participate in “any political process in which there are any type... of political party quotas.”
Key government posts have for years been shared out based on political and sectarian quotas, a practice demonstrators want to end.
According to officials in the interior ministry, the main entrances to Baghdad were temporarily closed.
Special security measures were also taken around sensitive sites in the capital, including the central bank and the international airport.
Security forces had already been on high alert across Baghdad as tens of thousands of Shiites converged on the city for an annual commemoration.


Hariri: “Promising summer” for Lebanon after Saudi travel warning lifted

Updated 3 min 57 sec ago
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Hariri: “Promising summer” for Lebanon after Saudi travel warning lifted

  • Saudi Arabia started warning its citizens of the instability in Lebanon in 2011
  • Lebanese PM Al-Hariri hopes for a series of agreements with Saudi Arabia

BEIRUT: More people have visited Lebanon since Saudi Arabia lifted its travel warning in February, pointing to a “promising summer” ahead, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri said on Wednesday.
A fall in visitors from Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies has hit Lebanon’s tourism industry, once a mainstay of a now-battered economy that Hariri’s new government has pledged to revive.
Saudi Arabia was once a major supporter both of its political allies in Beirut, chiefly Hariri, and of the Lebanese state. However, mindful of its overarching rivalry with Iran, Riyadh stepped back as Iran’s Lebanese ally, the political and military Hezbollah movement, grew in strength.
Saudi Arabia had been advising its citizens since 2011 to avoid Lebanon, citing Hezbollah’s influence and instability from the war in neighboring Syria.
“Without doubt the Saudi leadership’s decision ... had the most impact in increasing the number of visitors to Lebanon recently, which gives the best proof of a promising summer,” Hariri said at a Beirut conference attended by the head of Saudi Arabia’s King Salman humanitarian center.
Hariri also said he hoped that a pledge from Riyadh to help Lebanese families in need would spark a series of agreements between the two countries.
With pillars of the economy such as tourism and real estate in the doldrums, Lebanon has suffered years of low economic growth, and run up one of the world’s heaviest public debt burdens.
Saudi ties with Lebanon hit a low in November 2017, when Hariri was held against his will in Riyadh, announcing his resignation in a TV statement.
After French intervention, Hariri returned to Lebanon and withdrew the resignation, resolving the crisis. Though Hariri has always denied having been held in Saudi Arabia, French President Emmanuel Macron publicly confirmed it last year.