BAGHDAD — The Iraqi parliament on Sunday accepted Prime Minister Adel Abdel-Mahdi’s resignation after weeks of violent anti-government protests in the country that left hundreds dead.

The assembly will ask the country’s President Barham Salih to name a new prime minister, state television al-Iraqiya reported, quoting parliamentary speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi.

According to the Iraqi constitution, the head of state has to task a nominee of the largest bloc in parliament with forming the new government.

But the Marching Forward bloc, which has the biggest number of seats at the 329-strong assembly, said it had abandoned this right, according to Iraq’s independent news portal Alsumaria.

“The alliance has given up this right for demonstrators,” added the bloc backed by populist Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

The move aims at responding to protesters’ demand for a government of technocrats.

Iraqi governments have been formed along political and sectarian lines since the 2003 invasion that deposed dictator Saddam Hussein.

Critics say the system contributes to corruption and incompetence in state institutions.

On Friday, Abdel-Mahdi said he would step down, bowing to a key demand from protesters.

Abdel-Mahdi, who took office in October last year, also asked parliament to promptly install a replacement to defuse tensions in the country, which has been gripped by violent protests for the past two months.

Street protests have roiled Iraq since early October, with demonstrators calling for the resignation of the government, the dissolution of parliament and an overhaul of the country’s political system.

At least 380 people, mostly protesters, have since been killed in the capital Baghdad and the southern provinces, according to the semi-official watchdog, the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights.

Iraqi authorities had issued an arrest warrant against a military chief for ordering a deadly clampdown on anti-government rallies in the southern province of Dhi Qar, a judicial body said on Sunday.

The Supreme Judicial Council, Iraq’s highest judicial authority, said an investigative commission issued an arrest warrant against Gen. Jamil al-Shammari, who was in charge of security in Dhi Qar, Iraq’s official news agency INA reported.

The panel also ordered a travel ban on al-Shammari, who was removed from the post on Thursday.

Last week, at least 32 people were killed in clashes between security forces and protesters in Dhi Qar, according to witnesses.

The parliament on Sunday tasked its defense and security committee with heading to Dhi Qar and Najaf — another volatile southern province.

Later Sunday, clan chiefs in Najaf headed to the province’s capital of the same name in an attempt to end a standoff between protesters and security forces there, witnesses said.

Dozens of protesters are besieging a shrine in the holy Shiite city of Najaf, demanding the release of fellow demonstrators they say are being detained inside a complex housing the shrine, the witnesses added.

Elsewhere in southern Iraq, dozens of anti-government protesters stormed the headquarters of the Karbala province, prompting police to fire tear gas to disperse them, they added. No casualties were reported.

The demonstrations are the largest in Iraq since December 2017, when Baghdad declared the liberation of all territory previously under the control of Islamic State extremists.

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©2019 Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH (Hamburg, Germany)

Visit Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH (Hamburg, Germany) at www.dpa.de/English.82.0.html

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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PHOTOS (for help with images, contact 312-222-4194): IRAQ-PROTESTS

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