Talks in Baghdad as violence hits Iraq’s shrine cities

Students take part in a march to mourn protesters killed in anti-government rallies in the southern Iraqi city of Basra on December 1, 2019. (File/AFP)
Updated 03 December 2019

Talks in Baghdad as violence hits Iraq’s shrine cities

  • Najaf has been a flashpoint since protesters torched the Iranian consulate in the city last Wednesday
  • In the shrine city of Karbala, renewed street clashes between protesters and security forces raged late into the night

NAJAF: Iraq’s politicians gathered in Baghdad on Tuesday to discuss a way out of two months of protests that brought down the previous government, as violence hit two Shiite shrine cities.
In Najaf, seat of Iraq’s Shiite religious leadership, anti-government demonstrators gathered late into the night around the tomb of a cleric who founded a Shiite party, an AFP correspondent reported.
Armed men in civilian clothes who were guarding the tomb were seen firing shotguns and tear gas at protesters, but medics could not provide an immediate casualty toll.
It is part of a larger complex that has been surrounded for days by demonstrators denouncing the rule of an entrenched political elite.
Najaf has been a flashpoint since protesters torched the Iranian consulate in the city last Wednesday, accusing Iraq’s eastern neighbor of propping up a corrupt government in Baghdad.
Around two dozen protesters have died since, and the governor has called on the central government to put an end to the violence.
Influential tribal dignitaries have also tried to mediate and on Tuesday they called on populist cleric Moqtada Sadr and his Saraya Al-Salam (Peace Brigades) to intervene, according to a statement by Sadr’s office.
He has yet to respond.
Sadr was a key sponsor of outgoing prime minister Adel Abdel Mahdi after having won the lion’s share of seats in parliament in a May 2018 general election.
But he backed the protests early on and instructed his fighters to “protect” demonstrators from security forces.
In the shrine city of Karbala, renewed street clashes between protesters and security forces raged late into the night, an AFP correspondent reported.
Riot police fired live rounds and tear gas at the crowds.
Protests also continued in other parts of the south against the central government and Iran, whose pointman for Iraqi affairs Qasem Soleimani is in Iraq for talks.
Political factions were meeting on Tuesday to find a replacement for Abdel Mahdi and to hash out a new electoral law to oversee a snap general election.
The protesters, who have thronged the streets since early October, say they want more than just a premier and new elections.
They have also called for a new constitution and the abolition of the parties that have dominated Iraqi politics for more than a decade.


Sudan rebels, govt extend peace talks for three weeks

Updated 55 min 58 sec ago

Sudan rebels, govt extend peace talks for three weeks

  • The SRF and Khartoum representatives signed a deal to keep negotiations going

JUBA: The Sudanese government and a coalition of rebel groups on Monday extended peace talks for another three weeks after missing a deadline for a final peace deal.
The Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) — a coalition of nine rebel groups — and Khartoum representatives signed a deal to keep negotiations going after failing to wrap up talks by February 15.
“Hopefully this will be the last extension for these talks,” SRF deputy secretary general Yasir Arman told AFP.
Important steps have been made to “finalize a peace agreement,” Arman said.
The peace talks, which began in South Sudan in October, aim to end conflicts in Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan, where rebels have fought bloody campaigns against marginalization by Khartoum under ousted president Omar Al-Bashir.
Hopes of a peace deal were raised after Sudan’s transitional government, led by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, made ending conflict in these areas a priority.
So far the parties have agreed on a cease-fire, humanitarian access, land issues and the resettlement of those displaced by the conflicts.