Protest against Iraq PM blocks highway to Syria, Jordan

Updated 24 December 2012
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Protest against Iraq PM blocks highway to Syria, Jordan

RAMADI, Iraq: About 2,000 Iraqi protesters, demanding the ouster of Premier Nuri Al-Maliki, blocked yesterday a highway in western Iraq leading to Syria and Jordan, an AFP correspondent reported.
The protesters, including local officials, religious and tribal leaders, turned out in Ramadi, the capital of Sunni province of Anbar, to demonstrate against the arrest of nine guards of Finance Minister Rafa Al-Essawi.
Their arrest on terrorism charges has sparked a call from Essawi for Al-Maliki to quit or be removed.
“We are gathered today not for Essawi and his bodyguards, but to change the course of this sectarian government and to overthrow Maliki’s government,” Anbar provincial councillor Hikmat Iyada told the protesters.
A letter from Sheikh Abdul Malek Al-Saadi, a leading Sunni cleric in Anbar, was read at the protest in which he called for Shiites in the government to respect Sunni officials, and the minority Sunni population in Iraq. Maliki was also condemned in a separate statement issued by fugitive Sunni vice president, Tareq Al-Hashemi, who praised the demonstration.
“Maliki is a prisoner of a sick mind, obsessed with power,” said Hashemi, who has been handed multiple death sentences in absentia for charges he insists are politically motivated.
“The Islamic and Arab world looks at him now as the sponsor of the Safavid (Iranian) project in Iraq.”
Hashemi also called for a no confidence in the premier, accusing Al-Maliki of aiming “to get rid of his opponents.”
Sectarian tensions are still significant in Iraq, which suffered years of brutal confessional violence in which tens of thousands of people were killed and many more forced from their homes.


Egyptian president El-Sisi offers sympathy after heavy rains

Updated 27 min 39 sec ago
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Egyptian president El-Sisi offers sympathy after heavy rains

CAIRO: Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi has expressed sympathy with people affected by the rare heavy rains over the past two days.
The downpour had caused flash floods on the streets, leaving parts of the capital, Cairo, and other parts of Egypt impassable.
Footage on social media showed floods, leaky ceilings and parked cars completely submerged in water.
On Thursday, El-Sisi sought to reassure people that measures would be taken to prevent this from recurring.
He said on his Twitter account: “I understand completely the suffering of some Egyptians due to the sudden and unusual rainfall.”
El-Sisi added that he confirms the state and Egyptian authorities will “intensify their efforts to prevent such incidents from recurring.”
Egypt’s Meteorological Authority Ahmed Abdel-Al says the weather is expected to improve by Friday.