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Iraqi PM says protesters demands are ‘legitimate’ but warns of ‘the unknown’

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Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi described on Tuesday the demands of the protesters as legitimate but warned that the situation across the country “could be heading toward the unknown.”

In a televised speech, Abdul Mahdi said that the protests which erupted in early October are rightful and in the right direction, adding that these protests pointed to accumulated mistakes that were made since 2003.

He said that “many economic and social mistakes have not been properly and radically addressed.”

“There are legitimate demands for the resignation of the government,” said Abdul Mahdi.

But he warned that the situation across the country could be heading “toward the unknown.”

Abdul Mahdi said there is a need for a constitutional amendment, adding this amendment could amount to a change in the political system.

Earlier in the day, Abdul Mahdi appealed to protesters to suspend their movement, which he said had achieved its goals and was hurting the economy.

He said he is willing to resign if politicians agree on a replacement and vowed a number of reforms. But protesters say that is not enough and the entire political class needs to go.

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Iraqi security forces shot dead at least 13 protesters in the past 24 hours, dispensing with weeks of relative restraint in favor of trying to stamp out demonstrations against political parties that control the government.

After eight people were killed during the day on Monday, security forces shot dead at least five others overnight or early on Tuesday, including one killed with live fire toward a funeral procession held for another who died hours earlier, security and medical sources told Reuters.

More than 260 Iraqis have been killed in demonstrations since the start of October against a government they see as corrupt and beholden to foreign interests, above all Iran.

Most of those deaths occurred during the first week of the demonstrations when snipers shot into crowds from Baghdad rooftops. But after the government appeared to have curbed the use of some deadly tactics, the protests swelled rapidly over the past 12 days.

- With Reuters