March 26, 2016 / 4:47 PM / 2 years ago

Iraq's Sadr may extend sit-in to demand reforms: TV

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Powerful Iraqi Shi‘ite Muslim leader Moqtada al-Sadr may extend a sit-in protest that his followers are holding in Baghdad to demand a government overhaul to fight corruption, local television said on Saturday.

Supporters of prominent Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr shout slogans during a protest against government corruption, in the streets outside Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone in Iraq March 25, 2016. REUTERS/Khalid al Mousily

“The sit-in may be extended,” said a news flash on al-Taif, a channel affiliated with his political group. It did not provide further details.

Sadr arrived in Baghdad on Saturday from his base in the holy Shi‘ite city of Najaf, south of the capital, according to one of his military aides.

On Friday, Sadr called on Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to announce a new cabinet line-up that would see current ministers replaced by technocrats with no party affiliation to tackle systemic political patronage that has abetted graft.

He also warned party leaders they would face street protests if they obstruct the government overhaul that Abadi announced more than a month ago but has yet to implement.

Sadr’s followers began a sit-in more than a week ago outside the heavily fortified Green Zone of Baghdad to pressure the government to see through anti-corruption pledges. It was planned to last until the end of the month.

Iraq, a major OPEC producer that relies on oil exports for most of its revenue, has been plagued by corruption and mismanagement for years. It ranked 161 out of 168 on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index in 2015.

Reporting by Maher Chmaytelli and Stephen Kalin, Editing by Angus MacSwan

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