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Protesters in Iraq's Green Zone Disband After Issuing Political Demands

Baghdad Protesters Peacefully Make Way Out of Green Zone 1:45

BAGHDAD — Protesters camped out in Baghdad's Green Zone for 24 hours left the heavily fortified government district on Sunday after issuing demands for political reform — but they pledged to return by the end of the week to keep up the pressure.

Image: Followers of Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr gather at Grand Festivities Square within the Green Zone in Baghdad
Followers of Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr gather at Grand Festivities Square within the Green Zone in Baghdad, Iraq, on Sunday. THAIER AL-SUDANI / Reuters

Iraq has endured months of wrangling prompted by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's attempt to replace party-affiliated ministers with technocrats as part of an anti-corruption drive. A divided parliament has failed to approve the proposal amid scuffles and protests.

Deep frustration over the deadlock culminated in a breach on Saturday of the Green Zone by supporters of powerful Shiite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

Sadr wants to see Abadi's proposed technocrat government approved, ending a quota system blamed for rampant corruption. Powerful parties have resisted, fearing the dismantling of patronage networks that sustain their wealth and influence.

Abadi has warned continued turmoil could hamper the war against ISIS, which controls large swathes of northern and western Iraq.

The Green Zone protesters issued an escalating set of demands, including a parliamentary vote on a technocrat government, the resignation of the president, prime minister and parliamentary speaker and new elections.

Related: Iraq PM Orders Arrests After Breach of Baghdad's Green Zone

If none of the demands are met, a spokeswoman for the protesters said in a televised speech that they would resort to "all legitimate means" including civil disobedience.

Hundreds of protesters peacefully exited the Green Zone moments later.

The peaceful defusing of the crisis came after Abadi convened a high-level meeting with Iraq's president, parliament speaker and political bloc leaders who called the breach of the Green Zone "a dangerous infringement of the state's prestige and a blatant constitutional violation that must be prosecuted."

Anti-Government Protests Continue in Baghdad 0:24

They said the high-level meetings would continue in coming days "to ensure radical reforms of the political process."

A politician who attended the talks said Abadi had faced accusations of mishandling the crisis.