Iraq parliament holds emergency talks as Basra burns

Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi described the unrest as “political sabotage” as he joined the session with several ministers. (File/AFP)
Updated 08 September 2018
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Iraq parliament holds emergency talks as Basra burns

  • Basra has been rocked by protests since Tuesday, with demonstrators setting ablaze government buildings, the Iranian consulate and the offices of pro-Tehran militias and political parties
  • Iraq suffers from persistent corruption and many Iraqis complain that the country’s oil wealth is unfairly distributed

BAGHDAD: Iraqi lawmakers met Saturday in emergency session Saturday to discuss the crisis in public services in main southern city Basra after 12 protesters were killed, the Iranian consulate torched and the airport hit by rockets.
Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi described the unrest as “political sabotage” as he joined the session with several ministers.
Basra has been rocked by protests since Tuesday, with demonstrators setting ablaze government buildings, the Iranian consulate and the offices of pro-Tehran militias and political parties.
The anger flared after the hospitalization of 30,000 people who had drunk polluted water, in an oil-rich region where residents have for weeks complained of water and electricity shortages, corruption among officials and unemployment.
At least 12 demonstrators have been killed and 50 wounded in clashes with security forces, according to the interior ministry.

Iraqi officials announced Saturday a citywide curfew for Basra starting at 4pm local time, a military statement said.
Hours before parliament met, four rockets fired by unidentified assailants struck inside the perimeter of Basra airport, security sources said.
Staff at the airport, which is located near the US consulate in Basra, said flights were not affected.
The attack came after a day of rage in the southern city where hundreds of protesters stormed the fortified Iranian consulate, causing no casualties but sparking condemnation.
Abadi said he had instructed security forces to “act decisively against the acts of vandalism that accompanied the demonstrations”.
Iraq’s Joint Operations Command, which includes the army and police, vowed a “severe” response with “exceptional security measures”, including a ban on protests and group travel.
The foreign ministry called the attack on the consulate “an unacceptable act undermining the interests of Iraq and its international relations”.
Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghassemi denounced the “savage attack”, Iran’s Fars news agency reported.
A spokesman for the consulate said that all diplomats and staff had been evacuated from the building before the protesters attacked, and that none were hurt.
Iran’s ambassador to Iraq, Iraj Masjedi, said the consulate was “totally demolished” and charged that “foreign agents close to the US, Zionists and some Arab countries are trying to sabotage Iran-Iraq relations”, Iran’s ILNA news agency reported.
The wave of protests first broke out in Basra in July before spreading to other parts of the country, with demonstrators condemning corruption among Iraqi officials and demanding jobs.
Since then at least 27 people have been killed.
“We’re thirsty, we’re hungry, we are sick and abandoned,” protester Ali Hussein told AFP on Friday after another night of violence.
“Demonstrating is a sacred duty and all honest people ought to join.”
The anger on Basra’s streets was “in response to the government’s intentional policy of neglect” of the oil-rich region, the head of the region’s human rights council Mehdi Al-Tamimi said.
Iraq has been struggling to rebuild its infrastructure and economy after decades of bloody conflicts, including an eight-year war with Iran in the 1980s, the US-led invasion of 2003 and the battle against Daesh.
In August, the oil ministry announced that crude exports for August had hit their highest monthly figure this year, with nearly 112 million barrels of oil bringing $7.7 billion to state coffers.
Iraq, however, suffers from persistent corruption and many Iraqis complain that the country’s oil wealth is unfairly distributed.
Parliament said lawmakers will hear speeches by Abadi and key ministers and discuss the water contamination crisis, the latest breakdown in public services to spark public anger.
The meeting was demanded by populist Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr, whose political bloc won the largest number of seats in May elections although a new government has yet to be formed.
“If the situation remains unchanged we will be heading toward the formation of an emergency government,” warned Intissar Hassan, an MP elected to represent Basra.
She was referring to a constitutional provision that would give the prime minister full powers to act.
Sadr has called on politicians to present “radical and immediate” solutions at Saturday’s session or step down.
Abadi pledged in July a multi-billion dollar emergency plan to revive infrastructure and services in southern Iraq, one of the country’s most marginalized regions.
The prime minister is trying to hold onto his post in the next government and has formed an alliance with Sadr, a former militia chief who has called for Iraq to have greater political independence from both neighboring Iran and the United States.


Eastern Libyan forces hand El Sharara oilfield to oil guards

Updated 24 min 9 sec ago
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Eastern Libyan forces hand El Sharara oilfield to oil guards

  • The field, which had been producing about 315,000 barrels per day (bpd), was closed after a group of state guards and tribesmen seized it
  • Libyan forces loyal to a commander based in the east of the politically divided nation took control of the field last week

BENGHAZI, Libya: Eastern Libyan forces handed over control of the El Sharara oilfield to an oil security force, officials said on Tuesday, in a bid to encourage state oil firm NOC to restart production that has been halted since December.
The field, which had been producing about 315,000 barrels per day (bpd), was closed after a group of state guards and tribesmen seized it, making financial and other demand. NOC declared force majeure, a waiver on its contracts.
NOC, based in Tripoli, in the west of Libya where the internationally recognized government is based, has said it will not reopen the field without a new security arrangement and once other conditions are met, such as ensuring its workers are safe.
Libyan forces loyal to a commander based in the east of the politically divided nation took control of the field last week, after holding negotiations with the state guards and tribesmen.
“We call on NOC to lift force majeure,” Naji Al-Maghrabi, the eastern-based commander of the state oil guards which were appointed to protect the field, said in a statement posted online.
A spokesman for the eastern military confirmed the handing over of the field to the oil force.
There was no immediate comment from NOC.
It was not immediately clear if handing over security to security guards under the control of an eastern-based commander would meet NOC’s demands.
The eastern forces launched an offensive in mid-January to secure the southern oilfields, which include El Sharara.