Top cleric calls for progress after Iraq demos

Iraq`s top cleric called on politicians to improve public services.

Updated: Feb 26, 2011, 20:39 PM IST

Najaf (Iraq): Iraq`s top cleric on Saturday
called on politicians to slash their benefits and improve
public services, a day after thousands of protesters took to
the streets in a nationwide "Day of Rage".

A human rights group, meanwhile, said investigations
had to be opened into the deaths of demonstrators who rallied
against high levels of corruption and unemployment as well as
poor public services.

In Baghdad, traffic was once again allowed to pass
through the capital`s Tahrir Square where 5,000 demonstrators
had gathered, the biggest of at least 17 separate protests
across Iraq.
While the majority of protests were mostly peaceful,
clashes with police left 15 demonstrators dead and more than
130 injured, according to tally based on official

Four government buildings were set ablaze and one
provincial governor resigned.
The top Shiite Muslim religious authority, Grand
Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, said that the government had made
progress on improving power supplies, providing food for the
needy, creating jobs and combating corruption.

But he also called on Iraq`s leaders to "cancel
unacceptable benefits" given to current and former
politicians, and said they must "not invent unnecessary
government positions that cost Iraq money".

Sistani, who is based in the central shrine city of
Najaf and rarely wades into politics, warned that the "current
way of managing the state will lead to delays in taking
radical solutions for people`s problems."

His remarks came after New York-based Human Rights
Watch called on Iraqi authorities to open inquiries into all
deaths as well as any illegal use of force by security forces.

"Any unlawful use of force... should lead to the
prosecution of those responsible," the New York-based watchdog
said in a statement.

Bureau Report