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Iraqi Envoy Summoned After Consulate in Basra Torched

Iraqi Envoy Summoned After Consulate in Basra Torched   Iraqi Envoy Summoned After Consulate in Basra Torched

A senior official on Friday blamed Baghdad for failing to prevent an attack by protesters on the Iranian consulate in Iraq's southern city of Basra, saying that the Arab country's ambassador in Tehran has been summoned over the incident.

"The Iraqi ambassador was summoned to the Foreign Ministry, and our country's strong protest over the Iraqi security forces' failure to protect the consulate building was conveyed to him," Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qasemi said.  

After days of violent demonstrations in Basra against almost non-existent government services, corruption and misrule by state officials, protesters damaged and set the Iranian consulate building on fire on Friday, condemning Tehran's alleged interference in their country's internal affairs, according to media reports.  

Qasemi said the Iraqi government failed to act despite indications in recent days that an attack against the consulate was imminent and called for the perpetrators of the crime to be identified and punished.

*** Inflicted Damage

In separate remarks on Friday, Qasemi told ISNA the Baghdad government must compensate the material and other damages caused by the "savage" attack.

The official denied claims that the Iranian Embassy in Iraq had asked its nationals to leave the port city, which has been the epicenter of violent protests that has so far seen the death of 12 people.

"It seems that a hostile group that is against [good] relations between Iran and Iraq are seeking to cause problems and misunderstanding between the two nations," Qasemi said.

According to the spokesman, all staff at the consulate are safe as precautionary measures had been taken.

*** Investigation Underway

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Friday ordered an investigation into the deadly violence in Basra, saying that he had instructed security forces to act decisively against "acts of vandalism" that accompanied the demonstrations, Al Jazeera said.

At least 12 people have been killed in the city since Tuesday, according to the Iraqi Health Ministry.

*** Unacceptable

The foreign ministry in Baghdad said the storming of the consulate, which it deeply regretted, had nothing to do with protesters' demands, Reuters reported.

"The targeting of diplomatic missions is unacceptable and detrimental to the interests of Iraq," said Ahmed Mahjoub, the ministry spokesman.

*** Violation of Int'l Law

Ali Najafi-Khoshroodi, spokesperson for the Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, called on Iraqi authorities to bring the attackers to justice.

"The incident was against international regulations, based on which the Iraqi government has a responsibility to protect diplomatic places," he told ICANA in remarks published on Saturday.

The lawmaker said the incident will be discussed soon by members of the commission.

*** US, Saudi Support

In an interview with ISNA on Saturday, Abolfazl Hassan-Beiki, a member of the commission, said the attack was carried out with the support of the United States and Saudi Arabia to undermine the trilateral summit between Iran, Turkey and Russia, which was held in Tehran on Friday to discuss the future of war-torn Syria.  

In a statement issued on Friday, the US State Department condemned the violence against diplomats and called on "all parties, including security forces and protesters, to uphold the right of peaceful protest and to protect diplomats and their facilities," Reuters reported.

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