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Iraq PM calls for dialogue as thousands of anti-government protesters defy curfew

BAGHDAD, Iraq: Iranian Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi has called for dialogue after deadly anti-government protests entered third day all over the country despite curfew, according to government sources.

In a statement quoted by local media on Thursday, Abdul Mahdi’s office said, “The Prime Minister was prepared to meet with representatives of peaceful demonstrators to consider their legitimate demands.”

The announcement came as 4,000 protesters rallied in Baghdad, defying a strict curfew to demand improved services, work opportunities and an end to rampant corruption.

The crowds gathered in Baghdad’s Tayaran Square to march onto the central Tahrir Square, only to be met with open fire and heavy tear gas.

The police used live ammunition in Baghdad’s Zafaraniya district to threaten the defying protesters.

At least 31 people have been killed, 1,040 wounded and 62 arrested in three days of clashes between the protesters and police.

The killings have drawn international concern. Amnesty International has called on Iraqi government “to rein in the security forces and investigate the killings”.

While the United Nations has urged the government to, “exercise maximum restraint and allow peaceful protests.”

On Thursday, PM office had sent out texts to the public stating a hotline number that protesters could call to report their grievances.

Internet access in the capital and across much of the country has also been revoked to contain the mass protests.