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Protesters killed in Baghdad clashes, top cleric urges need for accelerating reforms

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Iraqi security forces killed three protesters in Baghdad on Friday and forcibly dispersed protesters blocking the countrys main port near Basra, as the countrys top cleric warned nothing but speedy electoral reforms would resolve unrest.

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Security forces opened fire and launched tear gas at protesters on a central Baghdad bridge, police sources said. Two people died from bullet wounds and one from a tear gas canister launched directly at the head. At least 27 more were injured.

In the south, security forces reopened the entrance to Iraqs main port, Umm Qasr, which protesters had blocked since Monday, port sources said, but normal operations had not yet resumed.

At least 329 people have been killed since the start of mass unrest in Baghdad and southern Iraq in early October, the largest demonstrations since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Protesters are demanding the overthrow of a political class seen as corrupt and serving foreign powers while many Iraqis languish in poverty without jobs, healthcare or education.

Iraqs top Shiite Muslim cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, called on Friday for politicians to hurry up in reforming electoral laws because the changes would be the only way to resolve weeks of deadly unrest.

“We affirm the importance of speeding up the passing of the electoral law and the electoral commission law because this represents the country moving past the big crisis,” his representative said during a sermon in the holy city of Kerbala.

Sistani, who rarely weighs in on politics except in times of crisis, holds massive influence over public opinion in Shiite-majority Iraq. He also repeated his view that the protesters had legitimate demRead More – Source

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