Hundreds of supporters of Shi'ite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr storm into Baghdad's Green Zone and set up tents beside parliament after Sadr denounces the failure of politicians to reform a political quota system blamed for rampant corruption. Mana Rabiee reports.
The political crisis in Iraq is deepening. Hundreds of supporters of Shi'ite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr stormed the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad, entering parliament and setting up tents outside for a sit-in. By sunset, police were firing teargas and firing bullets in the air to stop even more people from entering. Police say about a dozen people were wounded. The unprecedented breach came after Sadr denounced the failure of politicians to reform a political quota system that many blame for rampant corruption. His supporters have been demonstrating for weeks. But earlier in the day, lawmakers failed to even reach a quorum for a cabinet reshuffle aimed at combating corruption. It would have replaced some ministers chosen along party, ethnic or sectarian lines with technocrats - or experts in their fields. From the holy city of Najaf, Sadr announced on TV he stands at the ready… waiting, he says, for the "great popular uprising and ... revolution". (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) SHI'ITE CLERIC, MOQTADA AL-SADR, SAYING: "The people are the only ones who are responsible for choosing their fate. (If) corrupt officials and quotas remain , the entire government will be brought down and no one will be exempt from that." U.N. and Western diplomats said their compounds were on lockdown while the U.S. embassy denied reports of an evacuation. The army deployed special forces into the Green Zone to protect sensitive sites and an official said all entrances to Baghdad were shut as a precautionary move to maintain the capital's security.