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UN chief appeals for 'calm and restraint' in Iraq as Al Sadr quits politics

New York: Appealing for calm and restraint in Iraq after Shi'ite cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr announced of quitting politics on Monday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urges all "relevant actors" to take immediate steps to de-escalate the situation and avoid any violence.

Stephane Dujarric, the spokesperson of the Secretary-General in the statement said that the UN chief strongly urges all parties and actors to rise above their differences. "The Secretary-General has been following with concern the ongoing protests in Iraq today, during which demonstrators entered government buildings. He is particularly concerned about reports of casualties. He appeals for calm and restraint, and urges all relevant actors to take immediate steps to de-escalate the situation and avoid any violence," the statement read.
"The Secretary-General strongly urges all parties and actors to rise above their differences and to engage, without further delay, in a peaceful and inclusive dialogue on a constructive way forward," it further stated.

Chaos erupted in Iraq's capital Baghdad soon after Iraqi Shi'ite cleric announced of quitting politics on Monday with thousands of his followers stormed Iraq's presidential palace resulting in the death of two persons.
19 people were injured during the clashes between al-Sadr supporters and security forces in Baghdad's Green Zone, and several of them were hit by tear gas and stun grenades as they storm the government palace in Baghdad, according to Russia Today.
The Shi'ite cleric announced his resignation from politics on Monday following which the Military reinforcements were sent to the presidential palace as the followers of Al Sadr tore down cement barriers outside the government building in support of the cleric.

An immediate curfew was put in place right after as Palace security was unable to control the mass of demonstrators.
Earlier in July, numerous Iraqi demonstrators, mostly supporters of Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr stormed the heavily fortified parliament building in Baghdad to protest against the nomination for prime minister by rival Iran-backed parties. The protesters were opposing the candidacy of Mohammed Shia al-Sudani for the post of Prime Minister, as they believe him to be too close to Iran.
Notably, Al-Sadr's bloc won 73 seats in Iraq's October 2021 election, making it the largest faction in the 329-seat parliament but, ever since the vote, talks to form a new government have stalled, and Al-Sadr stepped down from the political process. A deadlock persists over the establishment of a new government.

In 2016 too Al-Sadr's supporters stormed the parliament in a similar fashion. They staged a sit-in and issued demands for political reform after then-Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi sought to replace party-affiliated ministers with technocrats in an anti-corruption drive.
Mass protests erupted in 2019 amid public anger over corruption and unemployment and this current protest poses a challenge for the oil-rich country. (ANI)

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