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United States calls for Iraq to probe 'abhorrent' use of force

By Darryl Coote
United States calls for Iraq to probe 'abhorrent' use of force
Iraqi protesters take part in the funeral of their fellow protestor who was killed in clashes with anti-riot policemen. Photo by Murtaja Lateef/EPA-EFE

Dec. 2 (UPI) -- The United States on Monday urged the Iraqi government to investigate recent violence in the city of Nasiriyah that left dozens dead, calling the excessive use of force "shocking and abhorrent."

David Schenker, assistant secretary for Near Eastern Affairs, told reporters Monday that the United States calls on the Iraqi government to investigate the recent killing of at least 29 protesters in the southern city of Nasiriyah by security forces and to hold those responsible.

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The Middle Eastern country has been submerged in protests since Oct. 1 over jobs, basic services and government corruption, resulting in at least 400 people dead and thousands injured.

"The use of excessive force over the weekend in Nasiriyah was shocking and abhorrent," Schenker said.

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The senior official said the Iraq protesters are "fed up" with economic stagnation, endemic corruption and mismanagement, and they have the right to protest peacefully.

"We must acknowledge and respect the fact that what is occurring in Iraq is indigenous to Iraq and reflects its citizens' needs and desires," he said. "Those needs deserve to be addressed without resort to violence or suppression."

He said the recent closing of nine television channels by the Iraqi government inconsistent with its duty to uphold freedom of expression and called for the harassment of journalists and activists to cease immediately.

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"The U.S. government continues to support Iraq's security, stability and sovereignty," he said.

On Friday, Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi said he would resign after powerful Iraqi cleric Ayatollah Alial-Sistani urged Parliament to end its support of him and his administration.

A senior State Department official told reporters Monday that the issue in Iraq right now is about government reform, that Iraqis want a system that holds their representatives more accountable, and that the United States wants this as well.

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"We are rooting for an Iraqi parliament that is once again responsive, more responsive to the Iraqi people," the official said in Washington, D.C.

The United States has no "parameters for timing" on government reform, only that the process should be handled by the Iraqi people.

"We want the Iraqis to get a government that is responsive to their legitimate demands - reform, anti-corruption," the senior official said.

The official also said they want the violence to end and for protesters to be allowed to protest peacefully.

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