Protests linger in Iraq capital ahead of parl session

Iraqis demonstrators wave a national (L) and another bearing the words "O Hussein" in Arabic, referring to the prophet Mohamed's grandson Imam Hussein ibn Ali, in the capital Baghdad's Tahrir square. AFP

Iraqi security forces fired tear gas to force protesters away from Baghdad's Green Zone Saturday ahead of a planned parliament session, AFP correspondents said, a day after 42 demonstrators were killed.

In the capital and across the south, protesters died Friday from live rounds, wounds sustained from tear gas canisters and in fires set to government and paramilitary offices.

On Saturday morning, demonstrators tried to reach Baghdad's high-security Green Zone, where parliament is scheduled to "discuss protesters' demands, cabinet's decisions and the implementation of reforms" later in the day, according to its agenda.

Security forces fired tear gas to force protesters away from Tahrir (Liberation) Square and the adjacent Al-Jumhuriya bridge, which leads to the Green Zone, home to government offices and foreign embassies.

A first wave of protests erupted on October 1, demanding an end to corruption and unemployment before escalating to calls for an overhaul of the political system.

More than 150 people were killed, according to a government probe, most of them protesters in Baghdad who died of gunshot wounds to the head or chest.

In response, authorities have pledged a laundry list of measures including hiring drives, increased pensions and a cabinet reshuffle.

New education and health ministers were approved by parliament earlier this month, the only time it was able to reach quorum since protests began.

But protesters seemed unimpressed and called for a resumption of nationwide demonstrations on October 25.

Parliament speaker Mohammed al-Halbusi said he had visited protesters overnight in Tahrir, but many demonstrators have shunned the participation of mainstream politicians whom they see as trying to co-opt their movement.

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