Iraq’s Sadr May Extend Sit-In To Demand Reforms

Supporters of prominent Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr have taken to the streets to protest against government corruption. REUTERS/Khalid al Mousily

BAGHDAD, March 27 – Powerful Iraqi Shiite Muslim leader Moqtada Al Sadr may extend a sit-in protest that his followers are holding in Baghdad to demand a government overhaul to fight corruption, local television said on Saturday.

“The sit-in may be extended,” said a news flash on Al Taif, a channel affiliated with his political group. It did not provide further details.

Sadr arrived in Baghdad on Saturday from his base in the holy Shiite city of Najaf, south of the capital, according to one of his military aides.

On Friday, Sadr called on Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi to announce a new cabinet line-up that would see current ministers replaced by technocrats with no party affiliation to tackle systemic political patronage that has abetted graft.

He also warned party leaders they would face street protests if they obstruct the government overhaul that Abadi announced more than a month ago but has yet to implement.

Sadr’s followers began a sit-in more than a week ago outside the heavily fortified Green Zone of Baghdad to pressure the government to see through anti-corruption pledges. It was planned to last until the end of the month.

Iraq, a major OPEC producer that relies on oil exports for most of its revenue, has been plagued by corruption and mismanagement for years. It ranked 161 out of 168 on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index in 2015.

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