Thousands of Iraqis stage anti-government protest

An Iraqi federal police officer stands guard while protesters chant anti-Iraqi government slogans during a protest in Tahrir Square in Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, Aug. 7, 2015. Thousands of Iraqis have braved the scorching summer heat to stage the protest in central Baghdad against government corruption. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)

Baghdad, March 12: Tens of thousands of Iraqis have taken to the streets of Baghdad for the third week in a row to demand a political overhaul.

Gathering on Friday in the capital, protesters heeded a call to gather by powerful Shia cleric Muqtada al- Sadr, who is pressuring the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to push on with a plan to form a cabinet of independent ministers.

In a pre-recorded speech aired during the demonstration, al-Sadr said: “I urge Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abbadi to press on with plans to form an independent cabinet of technocrats, to fight graft despite political pressure to desist.

“I want the prime minister to continue his reform plan with no fear of political pressure.”

The cleric has given the prime minister 45 days to appoint a cabinet, which he hopes will tackle corruption. If al-Abadi fails, he says he will bring a vote of no confidence in parliament.

Those attending the demonstration held up banners calling for a clean sweep of the government, and chanted that they would defend Iraq with their “blood and souls”.

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