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Iraqi PM Abadi says not seeking re-election after protests

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi

As Iraq moves closer to forming a new government, the incumbent Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi says he is not seeking to serve a second term in office. 

"We respect and obey the instructions of the religious authority Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. I did not and will not request the post of prime minister in the second term," he said at a news conference in Baghdad on Thursday.

Ayatollah Sistani, the country’s most senior cleric, said earlier in the week that Iraq needed new faces in the government as protests escalated in the southern oil-rich city of Basra and Baghdad. 

"Our service for the people will continue until the new government is established," Abadi said on Thursday, calling for peaceful ways to change the government. 

Abadi has faced calls to resign after protests in Basra last Friday took an ugly turn when a group of masked assailants raided government buildings and offices of political parties and set them ablaze.  

After the protests, Muqtada al-Sadr whose Sairoon (Marching Towards Reform) bloc came first in the parliamentary elections has apparently backed down on his willingness to form an alliance with Abadi.  

Over the weekend, Sadr’s bloc and the faction led by Hadi al-Amiri, the head of Badr Organization which is Iraq's biggest anti-terror paramilitary group, used an emergency meeting held at the parliament to call on Abadi to resign.

The parliament is to elect a new speaker on Saturday, with Amiri saying he would work with Sadr to form a new government.

Protesters in Basra are angry about endemic corruption, collapsing infrastructure, poor public services, high rates of poverty, soaring unemployment, and contamination of potable water.

Abadi said on Thursday a team of advisers would "assure the immediate implementation" of new water pumping, routing, and filtration projects there.

The prime minister paid a visit to Basra Monday at the head of a large delegation, including the ministers of information, defense, interior, health and water resources.

"We came here to cooperate with local residents and to provide them with the services they need. We will not leave Basra until several projects aimed at improving public services are launched,” he said.

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