Iraqi protesters face off against cleric Moqtada Sadr’s followers

Iraqi protesters face off against cleric Moqtada Sadr’s followers
Students took to the streets there as well to insist on keeping up their protests. (File/AFP)
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Updated 04 February 2020

Iraqi protesters face off against cleric Moqtada Sadr’s followers

Iraqi protesters face off against cleric Moqtada Sadr’s followers
  • The cleric Sadr endorsed new PM Allawi while other protesters rejected him
  • In Diwaniyah the rift escalated into a fistfight between anti-regime demonstrators and Sadr backers

DIWANIYAH: Anti-government demonstrators faced off against followers of influential cleric Moqtada Sadr in protest squares across Iraq Tuesday, a day after one demonstrator was killed in a clash between the two sides.
Sadr, an enigmatic militiaman-turned-politician, backed the anti-government rallies when they erupted in October but has split with other demonstrators over the nomination of Mohammad Allawi as prime minister.
The cleric endorsed Allawi while other protesters rejected him, saying he was too close to the ruling elite they had been demonstrating against for four months.
In the southern city of Diwaniyah on Tuesday, the rift escalated into a fistfight between young anti-regime demonstrators and Sadr backers, recognizable by their signature blue head caps, an AFP correspondent said.
Police intervened to separate the two camps but the young protesters broke into chants against Sadr, Iraqi authorities as well as Iran, accused by demonstrators of backing the government's crackdown against them.
Also in Diwaniyah, security forces could be seen outside schools and government offices in an attempt to ensure they reopened fully after sit-ins had forced them to shut.
It came after the interior ministry late Monday said it had ordered reinforcements to schools, and a few students could be seen trickling in the following morning.
Hundreds of students refused to go back to class, however, marching through the main anti-government protest camp with Iraqi flags and a banner that read, “Protest March for Diwaniyah High Schools.”
In Nasiriyah, too, all schools had reopened after police deployed, according to the education directorate's press chief Halim al-Hossayni.
But students took to the streets there as well to insist on keeping up their protests.
“We’re determined to pursue our peaceful movement in Habbubi square, because we want a homeland free of corruption and sectarian people,” said student Hamad Ali.
Tensions have been high in protest squares in recent days between youths furious at Allawi's nomination and Sadrists.
On Monday, a demonstrator was stabbed to death and three others wounded after men in blue caps attacked an anti-regime rally, medics and security sources said.
Allawi, 65, was nominated on February 1 after two months of political stalemate over who would replace ex-premier Adel Abdel Mahdi, who resigned in December.


World leaders welcome US transfer of power

World leaders welcome US transfer of power
Updated 14 min 53 sec ago

World leaders welcome US transfer of power

World leaders welcome US transfer of power
PARIS: Several world leaders said they were looking forward to Wednesday’s transfer of power in the United States, where Democrat Joe Biden will be sworn in as president after four turbulent years under Donald Trump.

President Hassan Rouhani did not miss the opportunity to hail the departure of “tyrant” Trump, with Tehran repeatedly calling on Washington to lift sanctions imposed over its nuclear drive.
Biden’s administration wants the United States back in the landmark Iran nuclear accord which Trump withdrew from, conditional on Tehran’s return to strict compliance.
A “tyrant’s era came to an end and today is the final day of his ominous reign,” Rouhani said.
“We expect (the Biden administration) to return to law and to commitments, and try in the next four years, if they can, to remove the stains of the past four years.”

Top EU officials voiced relief that they would soon have a friend in the White House again.
“Let’s build a new founding pact for a stronger Europe, for a stronger America and for a better world,” said Charles Michel, president of the European Council.
“This time-honored ceremony on the steps of the US Capitol will be a demonstration of the resilience of American democracy,” added European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
“And the resounding proof that, once again, after four long years, Europe has a friend in the White House.”

NATO said it hoped to boost transatlantic ties under Biden.
“We look forward to working with President-elect Joe Biden to further strengthen ties between the United States and Europe, as we face global challenges none of us can tackle alone,” the military alliance’s chief Jens Stoltenberg wrote on Twitter Tuesday.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was looking forward to “working closely” with Biden.
Johnson, who has faced criticism over his close relationship with Trump, cited a host of policy areas in which he hoped to collaborate with Biden.
“In our fight against COVID and across climate change, defense, security and in promoting and defending democracy, our goals are the same and our nations will work hand in hand to achieve them,” he said in a statement.

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev called for Russia and the United States to repair their strained ties.
“The current condition of relations between Russia and the United States is of great concern,” Gorbachev said in an interview with state-run news agency TASS.
“But this also means that something has to be done about it in order to normalize relations,” he said.
“We cannot fence ourselves off from each other.”