Tehran: Iran’s Foreign Ministry on Saturday summoned Iraq’s ambassador in Tehran to protest the burning of the Iranian consulate in the southern Iraqi city of Basra.
In a statement, ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi blamed the Basra police for withdrawing from the area around the Iranian consulate on Friday night, amid a week of protests in southern Iraq in which government offices and political party headquarters have also been set on fire.
Iran has wielded significant influence in Iraq in the wake of the US’ invasion in 2003, particularly in the country’s south, but this political power has led Iraqi protesters to direct some of the blame towards Iran for government corruption, unemployment and the lack of basic services such as water and electricity.
Iraqi authorities confirmed that at least three protesters died during Friday’s protests, raising the death toll to at least 13, while around 50 protesters were wounded in clashes with security forces overnight.
On Saturday, three mortar rounds were fired at Basra’s airport but landed in an open area, security sources told Efe news.
Basra, which sits in the heart of some of Iraq’s largest oil fields, has been the scene of anti-government protests since July, which intensified this week as tens of thousands of people in Basra were made ill due water contamination.