Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi called on parliament to accept his resignation and move quickly to find a successor, saying the country needs a new leader to end two months of violent, anti-government protests.
“I have no doubt that the council and its members will be diligent in finding a suitable replacement as soon as possible as the country in its current state can’t rely on a daily caretaker government,” he said during a meeting with the National Security Council broadcast on Al Arabiya TV.
The initial announcement Friday that he would step down sparked celebrations in the capital, Baghdad, and rallies in the southern city of Basra as protesters welcomed the apparent climb down. Mahdi, who’s backed by neighboring power Iran, had offered to quit earlier but then insisted he’d go only once lawmakers agreed on a replacement.
On Friday, the prime minister said that once he departs, parliament can “review its options and act to preserve the interests of Iraq.” The alternative could be a “vortex of violence, chaos and destruction,” he said.
His move followed a call from an influential Shiite cleric for lawmakers to promptly hold “free and honest” elections to prevent the OPEC member from slipping into deeper chaos.
Sheikh Ahmed Al-Safi, who speaks on behalf of Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, also renewed calls for officials to end the violent crackdown against protesters a day after security forces killed at least 25 people and wounded scores more in the southern city of Nassiriyah, and demonstrators burned Iran’s consulate in the holy city of Najaf.
Iraq will “pay dearly” for any delay by parliament in holding elections that “express the people’s will,” Al-Safi said in a Friday sermon.
At least 380 people have died in clashes between security forces and protesters since Oct. 1, Ali Al-Bayyati, a member of Iraq’s independent High Human Rights Commission, said in a text message.
(Karam reported from Rabat and Hamid from Washington.)
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