Iraqi president agrees constitution change

Iraqi President Fouad Massoum endorsed a constitutionial amendment - as protesters had called for - but did not mention specific changes

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Iraqi President Fouad Massoum on Wednesday endorsed amending the constitution, responding to protesters' demands to reform a system of government mired in corruption and mismanagement.

“We agree for the need to amend the constitution but we must not differ on the value and importance of the document which the people voted for,” Massoum said.

He did not mention specific amendments. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who launched a major reform campaign this month, has also said he might seek to revise the constitution.

Abadi, in a statement on his website, said "the reforms voted on by the cabinet and the parliament are constitutional and legal and I will not back down on them."

Amid a heatwave that has seen temperatures top 50 degrees Celsius, protesters have railed against the poor quality of services, especially power outages that leave just a few hours of government-supplied electricity per day.

Their demands were given a boost when top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani called on August 7 for Abadi to take "drastic measures" against corruption.

Abadi rolled out a reform program two days later that included eliminating the positions of deputy prime minister, which is apparently within his power, as well as those of the vice presidents.

Parliament signed off on those proposals and on additional reforms, and Abadi has begun issuing orders for changes, including cutting 11 cabinet posts and slashing the number of guards for officials.

Adnan Hussein, editor-in-chief of the Iraqi Al-Mada newspaper, told Al Arabiya News Channel Wednesday the president’s step holds great importance despite the fact that it followed days of protests.