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Protesters hit streets for 'Day of Regret'

  |   March 4, 2011 at 7:59 PM
BAGHDAD, March 4 (UPI) -- Authorities imposed curfews and limited public movement in cities throughout Iraq Friday in anticipation of renewed anti-government protests.

There were reports of planned demonstrations in Baghdad, Basra, Nineveh, Anbar and Salaheddin, CNN said. In recent weeks, demonstrators across Iraq have been calling on their newly elected government to address a variety of issues, ranging from the lack of electricity to food availability.

Police in Baghdad banned vehicular traffic throughout the city Friday, so protesters walked a distance of several miles to reach Tahrir Square, where thousands gathered following Friday prayers. Police in riot gear faced demonstrators, The Washington Post reported.

Many protesters said they were concerned, given the violence that followed last week's nationwide demonstrations, when what began as a peaceful protest disintegrated quickly as security forces fired into crowds and at least 29 people were killed.

Entire Baghdad neighborhoods, particularly Sunni areas, were blocked by security forces warning residents not to join the "Day of Regret" demonstrations, the Post said. The "Day of Regret," alternately called "Day of Dignity," refers to the one-year anniversary of Iraq's parliamentary elections.

The Iraqi movement so far claimed several local victories, including the resignations of three provincial governors and the offer by the Baghdad mayor to step down.

Iraq's most powerful secular leader, Iyad Allawi -- whose supporters have been among those targeted by security forces -- declined to take a position within Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government, the Post said.

Allawi conducted a joint news conference in Najaf with his onetime enemy, Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr, calling on his followers to protest in support of the Libyan people and against U.S. intervention. Sadr did not directly call on his followers to join the demonstrations.

Maliki has responded two ways, the Post said. He has tried to shut down the protests while offering to slash his salary, provide food rations and set a 100-day deadline for his Cabinet to produce results.

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