Iraq camps splin­ter over cleric’s back­ing of new PM

Muscat Daily - - NATION -

Baghdad, Iraq - Protests camps in Iraq’s cap­i­tal and the south be­gan to frac­ture on Mon­day, ac­tivists and jour­nal­ists said, split over whether to back prime min­is­ter-des­ig­nate Mo­ham­mad Allawi.

Allawi’s nom­i­na­tion has so far failed to quell the months-long ral­lies sweep­ing Baghdad and the mainly-Shi­ite south, where young demon­stra­tors have de­manded noth­ing short of a to­tal gov­ern­ment over­haul.

Most young pro­test­ers have re­jected Allawi as too close to the rul­ing elite but pow­er­ful cleric Mo­q­tada Sadr, who has backed the ral­lies, wel­comed his ap­point­ment on Satur­day. Sadr, how­ever, urged his fol­low­ers to stay in the streets, cre­at­ing a rift within protest squares.

Late on Sun­day, anti-gov­ern­ment demon­stra­tors op­posed to Allawi’s nom­i­na­tion started to clus­ter their tents closer to­gether in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, ac­tivists at the heart of the protest move­ment said.

“They’re split into two parts now, and there are plenty of peo­ple on both sides. I’m wor­ried about a clash,” a pro­tester said.

Ear­lier, dozens of Sadrists had stormed a key build­ing in Tahrir that had been oc­cu­pied for months by pro­test­ers, driv­ing out ac­tivists and re­mov­ing ban­ners list­ing their de­mands. In the south­ern port city of Basra, univer­sity stu­dents re­lo­cated their tents overnight to move away from those oc­cu­pied by Sadr sup­port­ers, a re­porter said.

“If Sadrists come to the protest square, don’t come into con­tact with them, don’t make prob­lems,” one or­gan­iser there called out over a loud­speaker.

Sadr, a 45 year old enig­matic fig­ure with a cult-like fol­low­ing across Baghdad, backed the protests when they first broke out in Oc­to­ber but has rethought his sup­port mul­ti­ple times since. Af­ter urg­ing his sup­port­ers back to the streets on Fri­day, he en­dorsed Allawi and con­demned stu­dent sit-ins and road clo­sures - the main tac­tics used by most pro­test­ers.


A pro­tester grabs a tear gas can­is­ter fired by po­lice amid clashes in alKhillani Square off cen­tral Baghdad’s Si­nak bridge, last Tues­day

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