Amid unrest, Iraqi PM will only resign if replacement found -president

Credit: REUTERS/KHALID AL-MOUSILY

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi is ready to resign only if parliament's main blocs can agree on his replacement, President Barham Salih said on Thursday, as tens of thousands gathered in Baghdad to demand an end to the current system of government.

Recasts with president and adds quotes

BAGHDAD, Oct 31 (Reuters) - Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi is ready to resign only if parliament's main blocs can agree on his replacement, President Barham Salih said on Thursday, as tens of thousands gathered in Baghdad to demand an end to the current system of government.

Abdul Mahdi, who despite promising reforms and a broad reshuffle of his cabinet has struggled to address protesters' demands. He has refused calls for an early election made by his erstwhile main supporter, populist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

"The prime minister had previously agreed to submit his resignation, if the blocs agree on an acceptable replacement in order to adhere to constitutional and legal frameworks," Salih said in a live televised address.

Early elections cannot be held until a new electoral law is passed, Salih said, adding that he expected a bill to be introduced in the Baghdad parliament by next week.

Abdul Mahdi said on Tuesday it would be quicker if Sadr and his main rival Hadi al-Amiri agreed on a replacement, and would prevent months of chaos.

It took more than six months of negotiations before Abdul Mahdi was appointed a year ago and finding a replacement all blocs can agree to will not be easy.

He emerged as a compromise candidate between Amiri – who leads an alliance of Iran-backed Shi’ite militia fighters that holds the second-largest amount of seats in parliament - and Sadr, a Shi’ite cleric who heads the largest bloc.

Iraqi security forces killed one protester and wounded more than 50 on Thursday as tens of thousands resumed mass demonstrations to demand an end to the sectarian power-sharing system they blame for endemic corruption and economic hardships.

More than 250 people have been killed in clashes with security forces and pro-government paramilitary groups since protests began on Oct. 1 and eventually swelled into the worst mass unrest in Iraq since the 2003 fall of Saddam Hussein.

(Reporting by Ahmed Aboulenein, Ahmed Rasheed, and Raya Jalabi; Additional reporting by Aref Mohammed in Basra, Alaa al-Marjani in Najaf, and Adam Hadi in Baquba Editing by Mark Heinrich)

((ahmed.aboulenein@tr.com; +964 790 191 7021; Reuters Messaging: ahmed.aboulenein.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

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