Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has warned anti-government protesters that security forces could intervene to end illegal demonstrations across the country. "If rallies go on without permission, or carry banners that compromise national security or private work, security should prevent them," Maliki said on Wednesday during a speech to mark the 91st anniversary of the foundation of Iraq's police force. Iraq has been rocked by protests over the past weeks, with protesters in the western Anbar Province continuing to block off a highway linking Iraq to Syria and Jordan for the second week.
Maliki also accused the protesters who blocked off the major trade route of trying to abuse their freedoms and cause chaos in the country."Freedom for those who do not understand its meaning is chaos and the law of the jungle,” he said. “There is a difference between a peaceful rally and an act of disobedience and blocking off a highway,” he added. Maliki also stated that a committee had been formed in order to consider some of the protesters’ demands. Iraq has been the scene of anti-government demonstrations since December 23, 2012, when bodyguards of Finance Minister Rafie al-Issawi were arrested on terrorism-related charges. The demonstrators allege that the arrests were made on sectarian grounds and demand an end to anti-terrorism laws. But the government says it is up to parliament to decide on abolishing those laws. On Sunday, Maliki warned against foreign interference, saying it would push the country toward sectarian violence. SAB/SZH/SS