Sep 5, 2011 2 Comments ›› Angelia
Iraq’s powerful anti-American Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr told the government on Monday it must create 50,000 jobs, give Iraqis a share of the nation’s oil wealth and step up other reforms or face protests.
Sadr, whose political movement is a key faction in Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s coalition government, said he was giving the government a “last chance.”
Earlier this year Sadr had given Maliki six months to accelerate reforms after protesters took to the streets across the country demanding more electricity and jobs and better government services. The deadline expired at the end of August.
“It is the Iraqi people’s right to demonstrate for its rights and services,” Sadr said in a statement.
“This is the last chance before we set a date for public demonstrations,” the statement added.
Maliki’s fragile coalition of Shi’ite, Sunni and Kurdish factions faces simmering public discontent as it struggles to control violence from Sunni Islamists and Shi’ite militias and to make a decision on whether U.S. troops should stay beyond a year-end deadline.
Sadr said the government must provide free fuel for neighbourhood power generators in addition to finding jobs for at least 50,000 unemployed Iraqis and ensuring a specific share of the nation’s oil wealth for each citizen.
He did not set a deadline for the government to meet his new conditions.
Inspired by uprisings across the Arab world, Iraqis protested in cities and towns across the country in February, but called for jobs, improved services and an end to public corruption rather than the ouster of the elected government formed last December.
More than eight years after the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, improvement is slow. Iraqis get only a few hours of electricity from the national grid each day and rely heavily on private neighbourhood generators.
Maliki’s government has taken a series of steps to ease public anger, boosting the national food ration programme and pledging free power. But Iraqis say there has been little real improvement.
“If these demands are met, demonstrations will be delayed until further notice,” Sadr’s statement said.