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Iraqis thirst for water and power

Lack of basic services is prompting growing protest aimed at Iraqi officials.

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This summer, the third since the fall of Baghdad, has been the worst yet when it comes to basic services. Interruptions to electricity and water supplies - caused by both decay and sabotage - are driving up the frustrations of millions of Iraqis.

While last summer public anger was directed at the US government, today it's as likely to be aimed directly at Iraq's interim government and officials.

Last Sunday in the Shiite town of Samawa 150 miles south of Baghdad, protests over joblessness and limited electricity and water supplies turned into a riot outside the governor's office in which about 1,000 residents overturned and burned a police van. The riot ended when police opened fire, killing one.

In a sign of how politically sensitive the matter has become, the rioting saw Shiite Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari rush a delegation of representatives to Samawa the next day. At a hastily convened provincial council meeting in their presence, Gov. Muhammed al-Hassani was then sacked.

And here in Baghdad, the militant Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has called for Friday protests against the lack of power and water. This is part of an ongoing campaign to shore up his power base among the urban poor by targeting the failures of his more moderate political opponents, who are now in power.

In a rare statement calling for the protests, Mr. Sadr blamed "the occupier and the people who have traded on their religion and sold their people" for Iraq's problems, an apparent reference to the mainstream Shiite political parties that run the government.

Meanwhile, Baghdad has a new mayor, Hussein al-Tahhan, who replaced Alaa al-Tamimi after he was run out of office by Shiite militiamen. Mr. Tahhan told Reuters that, "I don't think a politician should be a mayor, it should be someone who can spend all of his time in the service of the people," criticizing Mr. Tamimi for not paying enough attention to Baghdad's already crippled public services.


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