August 22, 2010 / 11:39 AM / 9 years ago

Iraq police, protesters clash over power shortages

* Dozens detained in new protests over poor public services

* Public frustration sharpens anger toward politicians

BASRA, Iraq, Aug 22 (Reuters) - Iraqi police used water cannon and batons to disperse protesters in the southern city of Nassiriya after protests flared over crippling electricity shortages and inadequate services, officials said on Sunday.

Unrest over Iraq’s dire public services, while U.S. troops prepare to end combat operations seven years after the invasion, has sharpened frustration with political leaders who have yet to form a government more than five months after an election.

Riot police scattered around 250 demonstrators on Saturday evening after they ignored a curfew imposed by local authorities on residents to prevent protesters from taking to the streets without permission, police sources in Nassiriya said.

Similar demonstrations occurred in Nassiriya in June when 1,000 protesters tried to storm the provincial council building, scuffling with police, and also in the southern oil hub of Basra, where two people died in clashes with police.

“The protesters threw stones at police forces, then riot forces moved to disperse them. They didn’t have permission to demonstrate,” a Nassiriya police source said.

Hospital officials at the al-Hussain hospital in Nassiriya said they received up to nine wounded, including six policemen suffering minor injuries.

Police said 37 protesters were arrested.

Incumbent Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki replaced the electricity minister in June after protests first erupted.

As the sectarian war recedes, complaints have been growing about public power lasting just a few hours each day, especially as summer temperatures regularly reach 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit).

The growing public frustration coincides with a dangerous political vacuum following the March 7 parliamentary election that insurgents have sought to exploit through persistent attacks before the end of U.S. combat operations on Aug. 31. (Reporting by Aref Mohammed in Basra; Writing by Ahmed Rasheed; Editing by Michael Christie and Mark Heinrich)

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