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Iraqi students rally against PM-designate Mohammed Allawi

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After two months of political deadlock following the resignation of caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, Allawi was nominated as the new prime minister on Saturday, with the task of running the country until an early election is held, for which there is no date set.

The selection of Allawi followed an ultimatum by Iraq President Barham Salih, who had said he would pick a new prime minister himself if parties did not agree on a candidate.

Iran ‘s foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said Tehran offered its full support for the new prime minister.

“Iran is willing to give any assistance necessary to help Iraq overcome problems and to pass through a sensitive time,” Mousavi said, according to the official IRNA news agency. Tensions on streets

Reporting from Baghdad, Al Jazeera’s Simona Foltyn said “large numbers” of students had taken to the streets at a critical time before midterm exams.

“What is noteworthy today is that they turned out in the streets despite mounting political opposition to the protest coming from Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr,” she said.

Earlier on Sunday, al-Sadr urged his followers camped out in

Tahrir Square to resume “day-to-day life” by opening blocked roads and ensuring schools and government offices remained open in a statement posted on Twitter.

Al-Sadr’s followers had returned to demonstration camps on Friday after he reversed an earlier decision to withhold support from the anti-government protest movement.

Upon returning, al-Sadr’s followers consolidated control of strategic areas in Tahrir Square, including key bridges leading to the fortified Green Zone, the seat of government. Significantly, they also moved into a high-rise building nicknamed the “Turkish Restaurant”, which offers a strategic lookout over the protests and had been occupied by anti-government protesters.

“They attacked us by surprise and forced us out of the building shouting that we didn’t do any good to the country except ruining its economy,” said Rassoul, 20, a protester who had been camping at the Turkish Restaurant since October.

University students carry a huge Iraqi flag to express their rejection of newly-appointed Prime Minister Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi during ongoing anti-government protests in Baghdad [Thaier al-Sudani/Reuters]

Al-Sadr, who also leads one of the biggest blocs in parliament, has thrown his weight behind Allawi.

Al-Sadr’s followers, known for donning blue caps on the street, were seen on Sunday cooperating with security forces and clearing blocked roads, Foltyn.

Many protesters said al-Sadr’s followers had threatened them to toe his line or leave the square. “They will never mix with us,” said Mariam Nael, 18, a protester.

“We are here for our homeland, they are blindly following the tweet of one cleric,” she told the The Associated Press news agency.

Source : Al Jazeera


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