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Protesters Set Iranian Consulate Ablaze in Iraq's Basra

Protesters stormed the Iranian consulate in Iraq’s southern oil hub Basra on Friday, local security sources said.

Hundreds of protesters stormed and set on fire the Iranian consulate in Iraq's southern city of Basra on Friday, an AFP photographer said, as they vented their anger over poor public services.

Thousands of anti-government demonstrators rallied outside the building while hundreds went inside the consulate and set it ablaze, the photographer said.

An hour after the incident the Iranian foreign ministry confirmed the attack but said that all the consulate staff is safe and unharmed.

But the foreign ministry spokesman, Bahram Ghasemi has said that the attack has caused huge material damage to the consulate. He added that there has been threats before the attack and this saved the lives of staff members.

According to Iran's Tasnim news agency, Ghasemi also said that this was a pee-meditated act and the Iraqi government was negligent in allowing it to happen. He demanded an immediate and effective investigation by Baghdad to identify those responsible and bring them to justice.

Basra has seen a surge in protests since Tuesday, with demonstrators torching government buildings as well as political party and militia offices, as anger boils over after the hospitalization of 30,000 people who had drunk polluted water.

At least nine demonstrators have been killed since then in clashes with security forces, Mehdi al-Tamimi, head of Basra's human rights council, has said.

Protests first broke out in July in oil-rich Basra province before spreading to other parts of the country, with demonstrators also condemning corruption among Iraqi officials and demanding jobs.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has scrambled to defuse the anger and authorities have pledged a multi-billion dollar emergency plan to revive infrastructure and services in southern Iraq.

But Iraqis remain sceptical as the country remains in a political limbo after May elections with the formation of a new government still to be sealed.

Iraq's parliament has meanwhile called for an emergency session on Saturday to discuss the unrest at the request of populist cleric Moqtada Sadr, whose bloc won the largest number of seats in the May polls.

With reporting by AFP