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Senior Iraqi cleric orders supporters to halt Baghdad sit-in

A member from the Iraqi security forces greets Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr (R) at the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad, March 31, 2016. (Reuters Photo)

Prominent Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has called on his supporters to stop a sit-in inside Baghdad’s Green Zone district aimed at pressing the government to reform the country’s political structure in a bid to tackle corruption. 

“End your sit-in before the gates of the Green Zone, with thanks and appreciation to you," Sadr said in televised remarks on Thursday.

The remarks came hours after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi presented a list with the names of candidates for ministries as he works up a new cabinet lineup.

The premier named Nizar Salem al-Numan as a candidate for oil minister as part of the cabinet reshuffle, state television reported. He also named prominent politician Ali Allawi for the post of finance minister and tagged Sharif Ali bin al-Hussein for foreign minister.

Iraqi lawmakers appear divided on the cabinet reshuffle. The Iraqi parliament postponed its session to vote on the cabinet lineup until April 2. It had been expected to reconvene on Thursday.

Sadr had called on Abadi to move ahead with a plan announced more than six weeks ago to change ministers in an attempt to combat systemic political patronage that has abetted graft in the Arab country.

Followers of Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr hold a sit-in outside the heavily guarded Green Zone in Baghdad, Iraq, March 28, 2016. ©AP

On March 18, Sadr’s followers began the sit-in at entrances to the Green Zone, which houses the legislature, the prime minister's office and various foreign embassies. He joined the protest action on March 27.

The demonstrators had vowed to continue their action until the government fulfills its pledge to enact political reforms.

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