October 29, 2019 / 3:04 PM / 20 days ago

UPDATE 1-Iraq's Umm Qasr port operations hit as protesters block entrance

(Adds details, background)

BASRA, Iraq, Oct 29 (Reuters) - Iraq’s Umm Qasr commodities port near Basra was operating at only around 20% of the normal level on Tuesday after protesters blocked its entrance, port employees and local officials said.

“Port operations were reduced to 20 percent because the replacement workers couldn’t join the work,” said a port manager.

Thousands of Iraqis have taken to the streets this week in a second wave of protests against a government and a political elite they say is corrupt and out of touch. The death toll since a broader wave of unrest started on Oct. 1 is at least 250.

Umm Qasr receives Iraqi imports of grain, vegetable oils and sugar shipments that feed a country largely dependent on imported food.

Local officials say they have held talks with protesters to try to persuade them to allow shift workers to enter the port so it can start operating normally. (Reporting by Aref Mohammed; Writing by Ahmed Rasheed; Editing by Mark Potter)

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