Iraqi prime minister calls for calm as protests continue
Hundreds of protesters gathered Wednesday in Iraq's eastern Diyala province to call for the dismissal of local officials, despite continued appeals by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki for people not to protest, dpa reported.
"Everybody should respect election results, which were a result of the will of the people," al-Maliki told reporters in a reference to the January 2009 polls that elected the officials being targeted by protesters.
Al-Maliki had previously accused al-Qaeda and loyalists of former president Saddam Hussein of masterminding the protests. On Wednesday he blamed a lack of speedy reforms on "the security situation."
His comments did not stop Iraqis in Diyala from defying a curfew to demand reforms and the sacking of officials accused of corruption.
Iraq has been ranked as one of the most corrupt nations in the world by the watchdog group Transparency International.
Over 56 per cent of people interviewed by the watchdog admitted to paying a bribe to receive attention from service providers in Iraq.
Sheikh Ali Khuan-Tamimi, an organiser of the Diyala protest in the city of Baquba, told the German Press Agency dpa that people came from surrounding cities and towns to "demand better services."
The cleric also said Iraqis want "an end to rampant corruption that has led to a waste of huge sums of money."
The demonstration in Diayala came just days after thousands of Iraqis protested across the country to call for an end to corruption and the removal of several local council members nationwide. Clashes with security in Friday's protests left 18 people dead and more than 140 injured, security and medical sources said.
Demonstrations and protests have already forced Maliki to call for local elections to be held earlier than the scheduled time frame of 2013.
Residents of Diayala have expressed growing frustration with the inability of security forces to curb a number of suicide bombings in the area that have killed both civilians and security services.
Most notably, suspected suicide bombers blew up an ambulance in an attack against a police office in Diyala that killed 14 people and injured 64 others earlier this year.