Iraq electricity minister resigns after deadly protests

Image caption,
Anger and temperatures are rising in Basra and elsewhere in Iraq

Iraq's electricity minister has offered his resignation after violent protests in several cities over power shortages.

Karim Waheed said the impatience of Iraqis and a lack of funds for his ministry was to blame for the lack of electricity generation.

Electricity is available for several hours a day and public anger has grown as temperatures have soared to 50C.

Two people were killed in Basra on Saturday when police opened fire on a protest against power shortages.

Mr Waheed had been electricity minister since Nouri Maliki became prime minister in 2006.

"Because Iraqis are not capable of being patient in their suffering, which would be alleviated by the projects I mentioned that will eliminate the shortages of electricity, and as this matter has been politicised on all sides, I am declaring in front of you with courage my resignation," he said in a televised address.

Simmering unrest

Police in Basra had opened fire to disperse protesters on Saturday throwing stones at the provincial government offices.

The demonstrators carried banners reading: "Return electricity to us" and "The people of Basra ask the authorities to provide services and electricity".

Basra's protest was followed by a similar one in the southern city of Nasiriya on Monday, when stone-throwing demonstrators injured at least 14 policemen.

Police used water cannon to disperse the protesters.

A government spokesman said Mr Maliki would not decide on whether to accept Mr Waheed's resignation until the cabinet had discussed it on Tuesday.

There has been simmering unrest in Iraq since the general election in March produced no outright winner.

Political parties have been unable to agree on who should take the position of prime minister and other key cabinet posts.