Baghdad – Anti-government protests, which have paralysed Iraq, have caused losses of more than 6 billion dollars, a military official said on Wednesday.
“Real peaceful demonstrations should not lead to destruction or harm of the Iraqi economy,” Army spokesman Abdel-Karim Khalaf said at a news conference in Baghdad.
Hundreds of trucks have been unable to reach the major port of Umm Qasr blocked by protesters for the fifth consecutive day in the oil-rich southern province of Basra, he added.
“This causes heavy damage to the country,” Khalaf said.
He called protesters’ blocking of roads leading to oil fields a “dangerous escalation,” adding: “The state has obligations. We will not allow coming closer to these fields.”
His remarks come hours after dozens of demonstrators blocked roads to oil fields in southern Iraq.
The protesters were gathering on the roads leading to the fields of the state-owned Missan Oil Company and demanding jobs, oil industry sources said.
“However, operations of production and exports are running normally,” one source said.
Khalaf vowed that those involved in blocking roads and bridges will be brought to justice.
Street protests have roiled Iraq in two waves since early October.
Demonstrators have decried corruption, lack of jobs and poor access to electricity and clean water in the oil-wealthy country.
The demonstrators have also demanded the resignation of the government, the dissolution of parliament and an overhaul of the country’s political system that has been in place since the 2003-led invasion of Iraq.
At least 260 people have been killed and 11,000 others injured, according to rights groups.
Under-fire Prime Minister Adel Abdel-Mahdi warned on Tuesday that interfering with oil production would do harm to the country’s struggling economy.
The protests are the country’s largest since December 2017, when Iraq declared the liberation of all territory previously under Islamic State militants’ control.