Again, four protesters were killed and dozens injured as demonstrations renewed in Baghdad for the 14th day. The United Nations is trying to mediate between protesters and the government, as oil exports remain stalled in southern Iraq.
At least four protesters were killed and more than 35 wounded on Thursday after security forces used live ammunition to disperse demonstrations near the Martyrs Bridge in central Baghdad, according to Iraqi security and medical sources.
Abdel Karim Khalaf, military spokesman for the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, issued orders to arrest "saboteurs who block roads and bring them to justice."
The Internet service returned to Iraq on Thursday morning, after the authorities cut it on Monday, and then returned it for hours the next day, before cutting it completely for two days.
Abdul Mahdi discussed today the budget of the new year with his government, and pledged to provide funds to respond to the demands of the demonstrators, and renewed his refusal to resign his government unless there is an alternative to avoid entering into the constitutional vacuum.
Meanwhile, the UN representative in Iraq, Jenin Blachart, is holding a meeting in central Baghdad with representatives of the protesters,the first meeting of its kind to open channels of dialogue between the government and the demonstrators, after meeting on Wednesday with Parliament Speaker Mohammed Halbousi to reach international mediation.
Today ,UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed his deep concern over the "high number of deaths and injuries during the ongoing demonstrations in Iraq" calling for a "serious investigation into all acts of violence."
The French Foreign Ministry condemned the "serious acts of violence" in Iraq yesterday , and called for the Iraqi authorities to open a "peaceful and democratic dialogue," reminding "the right of Iraqis to demonstrate peacefully."
Sources in the North Oil Company said that crude of oil shipments, estimated at 30,000 barrels per day, which are transported from the Qayyarah field in Nineveh governorate to the port of Umm Qasr in Basra province for export - have been suspended for three days due to the demonstration .
This came after sources in the security and oil sectors said that operations resumed early this morning in the port of Umm Qasr and the oil refinery of Nasiriyah after the protesters left the two areas today, but Reuters later quoted officials as saying that dozens of protesters have re-closed the main gate of the port.
The halt of fuel trucks across the region has caused fuel shortages in the southern province of Dhi Qar, and oil officials said the refinery had been operating at about half of its production capacity in the last few days.
The government says cutting roads to the Nasiriyah oil company, the Shinafiyah refinery and the Umm Qasr port have cost the state an estimated $ 6 billion in losses and hampered the entry of important food material into the country.
(Source: Debriefer / Agencies)