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Iraqi cleric calls for parliament session on Basra clashes

BAGHDAD — Iraq’s popular Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has called for an urgent parliamentary session to discuss the situation in the southern city of Basra, where protests against poor public services and joblessness have turned violent.

In a televised speech on Thursday, al-Sadr says the prime minister and other officials should either attend the session or resign. The populist cleric’s supporters won the most seats in national elections held earlier this year, but Iraq’s feuding factions have yet to form a new government.

Residents of Basra and other cities in Iraq’s southern Shiite heartland have been protesting since July. Clashes erupted earlier this week, leaving several civilians and police dead. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has ordered an investigation into the violence.