July 19, 2018 / 12:56 PM / 4 months ago

Cleric Sadr backs Iraq protests, calls for delay in government formation

FILE PHOTO: Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who's bloc came first, meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who's political bloc came third in a May parliamentary election, in Najaf, Iraq June 23, 2018. REUTERS/Alaa al-Marjani

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose political bloc won Iraq’s May 12 election, called on all politicians to delay efforts to form a new government until the demands of protesters seeking better services in the south are met.

“The winning political parties in the election have to suspend all political dialogues for forming coalitions and until they meet protesters’ rightful demands,” Sadr tweeted, in his first public comments on unrest which has swept the south.

Sadr won the election by promising to alleviate poverty, create jobs and provide better services to Iraqis, many of whom have grown tired of a political elite they see as corrupt.

Thousands have protested in cities in the long neglected south, Iraq’s Shi’ite heartland.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who is seeking another term, has said his Shi’ite-led government would provide funding for water and electricity in the oil hub of Basra and others parts of the south.

Reporting by Ahmed Rasheed; Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Alison Williams

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