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Iraqi Premier Calls For Protest Halt During Fallujah Campaign

Iraqi security forces tear-gassed protesters after they broke into Baghdad's fortified "Green Zone" on May 20, 2016.

Iraq's prime minister called on anti-government protesters to halt a demonstration scheduled for May 27 so that security forces can focus on retaking the city of Fallujah from the Islamic State group.

For months, followers of influential Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr have been holding protests every Friday outside Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone, demanding reform of what they say is an ineffective and corrupt political system.

To protect the demonstrators from militant attacks, extra security forces are usually deployed around the Green Zone, paralyzing parts of the capital.

In recent weeks, demonstrators knocked down the concrete blast walls surrounding the Green Zone and broke into Iraq's parliament building and government offices, heightening the country's political crisis.

"We ask our dear young people to postpone their demonstrations until Fallujah is freed; this battle requires an important effort," Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said as he visited the Fallujah Operation Command on May 26.

"Holding demonstrations is a right, but that would put pressure on our forces."

Abadi called on Iraqis to be "vigilant and cautious as [IS militants] will try to carry out crimes and massacres against civilians."

Based on reporting by AP, Reuters, and dpa