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Joy in Iraq's main protest site Tahrir Square after PM says he will quit

Iraq PM says to submit resignation to parliament


There was joy in Iraq's main protest site Tahrir Square after Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi pledged to hand in his resignation to parliament a day after some of the worst violence during two months of anti-government protests.
The announcement sparked celebrations in the capital, Baghdad, and rallies in the southern city of Basra as protesters welcomed the apparent climb down. Mahdi, who’s backed by neighboring power Iran, had offered to quit earlier but that time insisted he’d only go once lawmakers agreed on a replacement.

Adel Abdel Mahd said on Friday he will resign in keeping with the wishes of the country's top Shiite cleric, after nearly two months of anti-government protests that have cost more than 400 lives.

"I will submit to the esteemed parliament a formal letter requesting my resignation from the premiership," Abdel Mahdi wrote, just hours after Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani called in his weekly sermon on parliament to replace the cabinet.

The sermon set off an avalanche of statements from political figures in support of a no-confidence vote on the government, before the prime minister's announcement.

Celebrations broke out in Tahrir, where young protesters dropped the stones they were preparing to throw at riot police and began dancing, an AFP photographer said.

"It's our first victory, and we're hoping for many more," shouted one demonstrator as the three-wheeled tuk-tuk vehicles used to ferry casualties pumped patriotic music into the square.

"It's also a victory for the martyrs who fell," he said.

The grassroots movement is the largest Iraq has seen in decades but also the deadliest, with more than 400 people dead and 15,000 wounded in the capital and Shiite-majority south, according to an AFP tally.

For weeks, Sistani had called for restraint in dealing with demonstrators and urged political parties to get "serious" about reform, but he ramped up demands on Friday.

"The parliament, from which this current government is drawn, is asked to reconsider its choice in this regard," he said in Friday's sermon delivered by a representative.

Within minutes, MP and former premier Haider al-Abadi called on lawmakers to convene Saturday for a "special session for a vote of no-confidence and to form a new independent government".

And the powerful Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary network, which had backed the government, also appeared to change course.

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