Iraqis demand electricity at angry Basra protest

Iraqi security forces opened fire to disperse thousands of angry protestors demonstrating in the oil hub of Basra against crippling power cuts.

Iraqis demand electricity at angry Basra protest

Iraqi security forces opened fire to disperse thousands of angry protestors demonstrating in the oil hub of Basra on Saturday against crippling power cuts, and security sources said one person died.

The crowd of about 4,000 tried to force its way into the provincial council building in Basra, demanding the resignation of Electricity Minister Karim Waheed.

Some tried to climb the walls of the building, hurling stones and smashing windows.

Police appeared to fire into the air, but security sources said three people were wounded and one later died in hospital.

The continued absence of a new government more than three months since a March election that produced no clear winner is fuelling anger among Iraqis seeking stability and basic services.

Demonstrators said the Basra protest was spontaneous.

But provincial council officials from Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's State of Law bloc said the rally had been exploited by Shi'ite political rivals, who want Maliki to give up his bid for a second term in talks on forming a coalition government.

Some protesters held placards that read, "We regret voting in the election." Others read, "Members of the provincial council, turn off your air-conditioners," and, "If you are unable to provide electricity, then don't lead the country."

A coffin was hoisted into the air, bearing the words, "The death of electricity" and "Prime Minister, Basra needs electricity."

Basra and the south are rich in oil and key to Iraq's bid to join the elite of global oil producers on the back of multi-billion-dollar oil deals.

In December 2008, Iraq signed $3 billion contracts with General Electric and Siemens to add another 11,000 MW.

A similar protest was held in the southern city of Nassiriya this week, where a senior official in the provincial council of Dhi Qar province resigned over the power shortages.

Dozens also demonstrated in Baghdad's Karrada district on Saturday. It was not clear who organised those two events.

At the Basra protest, government worker Hashem Luaibi said he wanted the electricity minister to quit.

"All their promises are lies. For four years they have only given speeches," he said.

Reuters

Güncelleme Tarihi: 19 Haziran 2010, 18:07
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