Baghdad : Supporters of influential Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr held mass prayers in Baghdads fortified Green Zone, in a show of force that aims to push for early parliamentary elections.
According to participants, hundreds of thousands of people took part in the Friday prayers, gathering under temperatures of more than 40 degrees Celsius, reports dpa news agency.
On Wednesday, al-Sadr had called for early parliamentary elections and told his loyalists to continue their protest sit-in in the Green Zone.
“Iraq has become a prisoner of corruption,” cleric Mohannad al-Mousawi told worshippers at the prayers, and reiterated al-Sadr’s demands.
Parliamentary Speaker Mohammad al-Halbousi also said he supports calls for early parliamentary and local elections.
The protests are the latest escalation in Iraq’s political deadlock over naming a new Prime Minister following the October parliamentary elections.
Protests erupted as al-Sadr rejected the nomination for premier put forward by his rival, the Coordination Framework political alliance.
The nominee, former Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, is seen as close to al-Sadr’s adversary, the Iran-backed former premier Nouri al-Maliki.
Al-Maliki is the leader of the State of Law coalition, which is a major force in the Coordination Framework.
Earlier on Friday, UN special envoy for Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, met al-Sadr, where they discussed “the importance of finding solutions to the many challenges facing Iraq”.— IANS