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Dozens wounded as Iraqi protesters raise pressure on government

The threat of conflict in the country due to tensions between the US and Iran had quelled the demonstrations in recent weeks.

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Anti-government protesters set fires and close streets in Baghdad (Hadi Mizban/AP)

Anti-government protesters set fires and close streets in Baghdad (Hadi Mizban/AP)

Anti-government protesters set fires and close streets in Baghdad (Hadi Mizban/AP)

Iraqi security forces wounded dozens of protesters on Sunday as renewed anti-government demonstrations gripped the capital Baghdad.

The mass protests had lost steam when soaring US-Iran tensions threatened an open conflict on Iraqi soil in past weeks.

As the regional crisis receded, Iraqi activists gave the government a week’s deadline to act on their demands for sweeping political reforms or said they would up the pressure with new demonstrations.

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An anti-government protester stages a sit-in while security forces stand guard (Hadi Mizban/AP)

An anti-government protester stages a sit-in while security forces stand guard (Hadi Mizban/AP)

AP/PA Images

An anti-government protester stages a sit-in while security forces stand guard (Hadi Mizban/AP)

The uprising began on October 1 when thousands of Iraqis took to the streets to decry rampant government corruption, poor public services and a scarcity of jobs.

Protesters are demanding an end to Iraq’s sectarian political system, alongside early elections and the stepping aside of its ruling elite.

Clashes between protesters and security forces in central Baghdad wounded at least 27 people on Sunday.

Security forces fired tear gas to disperse crowds in Tayaran Square and the nearby Sinak Bridge, wounding 23, an activist and two medical officials said.

Some protesters hurled rocks at police, wounding four personnel, a security official and two medical officials said.

Three Iraqi activists said more rallies are planned in the coming days as the protesters seek to refocus public attention on their mass movement.

Tensions between the US and Iran peaked after an American drone strike killed a top Iranian commander and Iraqi militia leader outside Baghdad’s international airport.

Those killings prompted days of political turmoil across the region and Iraq that led to Iraqi politicians calling for a US troop withdrawal.

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Anti-government protesters set fires and close streets (Hadi Mizban/AP)

Anti-government protesters set fires and close streets (Hadi Mizban/AP)

AP/PA Images

Anti-government protesters set fires and close streets (Hadi Mizban/AP)

Supporters of the influential Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr said they are organising a mass protest this week supporting calls for the ousting of American troops from Iraq in response to the US drone attack.

Protesters have been in a standoff with security forces on three strategic bridges – Sinak, Ahrar and Jumhuriyah – that lead toward the fortified Green Zone, the seat of Iraq’s government.

Meanwhile, Iraq’s parliament postponed a critical session on Sunday due to a lack of numbers.

Politicians were expected to discuss candidates to replace outgoing Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, who resigned in December under pressure from protesters.

The next session is expected to be held on Wednesday.

Earlier on Sunday, protesters burned tires cutting off main thoroughfares in Baghdad.

Protests were also held in the southern provinces of Najaf, Dhi Qar, Karbala and Basra.

PA