Iran closely watching developments in neighboring Iraq: Spokesman

Press TV – Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abbas Mousavi says Tehran is closely watching the recent developments in neighboring Iraq, where scores of people have been killed or injured in clashes between security forces and protesters.

Mousavi said on Saturday that Iran deeply regretted the loss of lives as well as destruction of public properties during protests in Iraq, saying Tehran was confident that the Iraqi government and people would overcome the current crisis through unity and cohesion.

“Iran is following developments in Iraq with care and sensitivity,” said Mousavi in a statement covered in the official IRNA agency, adding that Iran supports demands of the Iraqi people as endorsed by the religious authorities as well as the government of the Arab country.

He said that Iran also regretted the fact that the popular demands for change in Iraq had been “confiscated” by certain groups.

The official said Iran had always offered its help to the “neighborly and brotherly” country of Iraq during sensitive periods of time, adding that Tehran’s policy since the fall of the former dictatorial regime in Iraq in 2003 has been to continuously remain supportive of the Iraqi government and nation.

The statement came as protests escalated in the Iraqi capital Baghdad and other cities with reports suggesting that at least 10 people had been killed in the violence on the streets on Saturday.

That brought the total number of those killed during a renewed wave of protests that began on Friday to 62 people, prompting calls on the government to refrain from violence and to start responding to the demands of the protesters.

The United Nations reacted to the escalation of violence, with UN’s Iraq Envoy Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert saying on Saturday that an escalated crackdown on protesters, as promised by the government, would not be tolerated.

In another major development, a powerful political bloc led by popular cleric Moqtada al-Sadr said that it would stage a sit-in the parliament until the demands of the protesters are met.

A spokesman of the Sairoun parliamentary bloc, the group which came first in the 2018 election, said on Saturday that it will go into political opposition in the House of Representatives.

The spokesman, speaking in a news conference in Baghdad, would not elaborate if ministers representing the bloc in the government of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi would resign.

There was also a statement from Sadr himself in which the cleric called on the Abdul Mahdi and other members of the Iraqi cabinet to resign.