Iraqi prime minister's main backers agree to oust him
Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi's two main backers have agreed to work to remove him from office as protests against his government gained momentum in Baghdad and much of the Shia south only to be met with violence.
Populist Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who leads parliament's largest bloc, had asked Abdel Mahdi to call an early election. When the premier refused, he called on his main political rival Hadi al-Amiri to help oust him.
Amiri - who leads a parliamentary alliance of Iran-backed Shia militia that holds the second-largest amount of seats in parliament behind Sadr's alliance - issued a statement late on Tuesday agreeing to help oust the prime minister.
"We will work together to secure the interests of the Iraqi people and save the nation in accordance with the public good," Amiri said in a statement.
Abdel Mahdi took office just a year ago after weeks of political deadlock in which Sadr and Amiri both failed to secure enough votes to form a government. They appointed Abdel Mahdi as a compromise candidate to lead a fragile coalition government.
Mass protests driven by discontent over economic hardship and corruption have broken nearly two years of relative stability in Iraq. At least 250 people have been killed since the unrest started on Oct. 1.