Iraqi protesters torch buildings, block streets via PM Pick

Nasiriyah (Iraq) (AFP) – Iraqi anti-government protesters blocked roads and bridges in Baghdad and in the south of the country after setting fire to several buildings overnight.

The protesters are against the entire political class and have angered the leaders who are negotiating to appoint an insider of the establishment to be the next prime minister.

"The government is hostage to corrupt parties and sectarian divisions," said an activist, Sattar Jabbar, 25, in the southern city of Nasiriyah.

Smoke and flames from burning tires in Nasiriyah, Basra and Diwaniyah blocked the main roads and bridges across the Euphrates all night, AFP correspondents said before some of these roadblocks were lifted in the morning.

In Nasiriyah, demonstrators set fire to the provincial government building a second time since the protests began overnight, and protesters also set fire to the new headquarters of an Iran-friendly militia in Diwaniyah.

Iraq has been shaken by protests since October 1, which caused Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi to resign last month.

After the collapse, the street campaign has gained new momentum in recent days to defend itself against widespread corruption and a political system committed to neighboring Iran.

Government offices and schools throughout southern Iraq remain closed.

Pro-Iranian factions have touted outgoing university minister Qusay al-Suhail for prime minister for several weeks, but his appointment was rejected by President Barham Saleh.

These factions are now campaigning for Assaad al-Aidani, the governor of Basra – another unpopular election among demonstrators.

"We don't want the Iranian Assaad!" shouted protesters in Kut, a southern city.

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The protesters want a technocratic prime minister who has not participated in the political system that was established after the US-led invasion that overthrew dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003.

In almost three months of the clashes between protesters and security forces, around 460 people were killed and 25,000 injured.

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