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Iraq Protesters Block Roads to Port    11/18 06:52

   BAGHDAD (AP) -- Anti-government demonstrators in southern Iraq blocked roads 
leading to the country's main port on Monday, while the country's central bank 
reduced working hours because of ongoing demonstrations, security officials 
said.

   Protesters burned tires, blocking the roads to the Umm Qasr port, 
responsible for the bulk of the country's commodities imports, a Basra security 
official said.

   Protesters also cut roads to the airport with burning tires in the holy city 
of Najaf.

   This is the second time the port has been blocked since the protests began 
on Oct. 1, when thousands of Iraqis, mostly youth, took to the streets 
denouncing rampant government corruption, failing state services including 
electricity cuts, and a lack of job opportunities.

   "It was tough times when the port was closed," said a senior port official, 
referring to previous closures on Oct. 29 that lasted nearly a week. The source 
said productivity had been cut by nearly half as a result but imports had been 
rebounding gradually since. The port is an important source of revenue for the 
government.

   Meanwhile, working hours were reduced for employees of the Central Bank in 
Baghdad, located on the famous Rasheed Street, because of the ongoing protests.

   "We are still working normally but we reduced working hours," said a senior 
director-general in the bank.

   On Sunday, two protesters were wounded when security forces fired tear gas 
in renewed confrontations with demonstrators on Rasheed Street, close to the 
central bank building.

   At least 320 people have been killed and thousands wounded in the capital 
and the mostly Shiite southern provinces since the unrest began. Almost daily 
clashes have seen security forces use heavy tear gas, live rounds and stun guns 
to repel demonstrators from reaching the heavily fortified Green Zone, the seat 
of Iraq's government and also home to various foreign embassies including the 
U.S.


(KR)

 
 
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