Iraq parties, allies debate new premier as violence hits capital, shrine cities Dec 04, 2019 0 195 12345 AFPBaghdadIraqi politicians and their regional allies gathered in Baghdad on Tuesday to discuss a way out of two months of protests that brought down the government, as violence hit southern cities.Demonstrators demanding root-and-branch reform have flooded the capital and the Shiite-majority south since October in the largest grassroots movement the country has witnessed in years.Seen as a threat to the ruling elite, the rallies were met with a heavy-handed response from security forces and armed groups that has left more than 420 people dead and nearly 20,000 wounded -- the vast majority demonstrators.After a fresh uptick of violence last week, prime minister Adel Abdel Mahdi formally resigned and talks to find a replacement have intensified this week in Baghdad.Among those attending the negotiations are two key allies of Iraq’s main Shiite parties: Iran’s Revolutionary Guards commander Major General Qasem Soleimani and Lebanese power-broker Mohammad Kawtharany, a high-ranking political source told AFP.“Soleimani is in Baghdad to push for a particular candidate to succeed Abdel Mahdi,” the source said, without providing details.Kawtharany, who is Lebanese militant group Hezbollah’s pointman on Iraq, “is also playing a large role in persuading Shiite and Sunni political forces on this”, the source added.Political powers in Shiite-majority Iraq have long had close ties with counterparts in Iran and Lebanon further west, both of which have also been rocked by protests in recent weeks.The United States said Soleimani’s presence showed that its arch-foe Iran was again “interfering” in Iraq.Meanwhile, protests have continued in the streets of Baghdad and across the south.In the shrine city of Najaf, 35 protesters were wounded when armed guards in civilian clothes fired shotguns and tear gas on crowds near the tomb of Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim, a cleric who founded a major Shiite political party, medics said.Najaf has been rocked by violence since protesters torched the Iranian consulate there last Wednesday, accusing Tehran of propping up the government.Tribal dignitaries have tried to mediate, calling on populist cleric Moqtada Sadr and his Saraya al-Salam (Peace Brigades) to intervene, Sadr’s office said. He has yet to respond.In Karbala, riot police fired live rounds and tear gas at protesters late into Monday night, an AFP correspondent reported.Federal police have dispatched reinforcements to the flashpoint city of Nasiriyah, where the most deaths have been in recent days, and to the port city of Basra.Some 500 officers arrived in Nasiriyah and another 150 to Basra for added security at prisons holding accused jihadists, fearing a breakout amid the chaos.In Baghdad, authorities announced on Tuesday they were releasing 16 people detained at protests. The step came a day after Human Rights Watch accused the government of not doing enough to protect activists against harassment. RELATED ARTICLES Two soldiers killed, seven injured in roadside bomb in central Mali: Army Dec 04, 2019 0 1359 Nearly a third of residents in southern Israel consider move Dec 04, 2019 0 787 Syrian refugees leave Lebanon to head back home Dec 04, 2019 0 154 Zimbabwe’s Mugabe left $10 mn, 10 cars, a farm and two houses Harare: Zimbabwe’s late former president Robert Mugabe left US$10 million, 10 cars, a farm and two houses, details of his estate released on Tuesday revealed. The state-owned Herald newspaper said his daughter, Bona .. US ends freeze on $100 million in Lebanon aid AFP Washington US President Donald Trump’s administration said on Monday it has released $100 million in military assistance to Lebanon that had been quietly frozen for months amid US complaints about the clout of .. Trump slams govt crackdown in Iran, defends Iranians ‘killed for protesting’ AFP London US President Donald Trump on Tuesday denounced Iran’s crackdown on anti-government protesters, as rights groups said the death toll had soared. Protests erupted in Iran on November 15 after an announcement .. 23 killed, dozens injured as fire engulfs factory in the Sudanese capital Khartoum: Twenty-three people were killed and dozens injured as a fire triggered by an explosion in a gas tanker tore through a factory in the Sudanese capital on Tuesday, officials said. Thick plumes of black smoke .. Iran videos hit internet revealing scope of crackdown Nicosia: Videos showing harrowing scenes of bleeding protesters, burning roadblocks and snipers on rooftops have emerged after Iran lifted a near-total internet blackout, opening a window onto what analysts say was ..