Babylon & Beyond

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IRAQ: Protesters attack Kurdish party building in Sulaymaniya

February 18, 2011 | 10:02 am

Iraqi protesters stepped up their challenges to provincial leaderships throughout the nation on Friday, with more than 1,000 demanding that the governor of Basra step down and looters attacking a Kurdish political party headquarters in Sulaymaniya.

The vandalism in Kurdistan followed violent clashes between government forces and protesters on Thursday in which at least two people were killed.

Unrest has gripped Iraqi cities in recent days as impoverished southern residents demand government action to improve their job prospects and an end to the corruption they say invades many provincial leaderships. The semi-autonomous northern Kurdish regions are comparatively more prosperous, but residents there, too, have added their voices to the discontent engulfing the Middle East.

Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani blamed the violence in Sulaymaniya on "enemies trying to create sedition and chaos," and vowed that the region's leaders would restore order and bring instigators and vandals to justice.

Barzani's warning echoed that of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki a day earlier when he said peaceful demonstrations were permissible but violent actions would be punished.

"I welcome those who demonstrate peacefully for their legitimate rights, but I am not in favor of those who exploit those claims to incite riots," Maliki told reporters in Baghdad.

-- Carol J. Williams

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