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More Deaths As Iraqi Protesters Clash With Security Forces In Baghdad

Iraqi security forces clashed with protesters in Baghdad and near Basra, killing at least four people as the death toll rose to at least 340 since anti-government demonstrations began on October 1.

In the capital, security forces opened fire on November 22 and launched tear gas at protesters on a central Baghdad bridge, killing two who died from bullet wounds and two others from direct strikes from tear-gas canisters.

At least 61 more were injured, police and medical sources said.

In southern Iraq near Basra, security personnel used force to reopen the entrance to Iraq's main port, Umm Qasr, which protesters had blocked over the past five days, but normal port operations have yet to resume.

Protesters have expressed anger over widespread corruption, lack of job opportunities, and poor basic services, including regular power cuts. They have called for Iraq's entire sectarian political system to be reformed.

Iraq's top Shi'ite Muslim cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, on November 22 called for politicians to push forward with reforms of electoral laws, saying it was the only way to quell the unrest.

"We affirm the importance of speeding up the passing of the electoral law and the electoral commission law because this represents the country moving past the big crisis," his representative said in a sermon in the holy city of Kerbala.

President Barham Salih has proposed reforms that would have lawmakers elected from individual districts instead of whole provinces, and run as individuals rather than on party lists.

Protesters said this would help reduce the power of parties and provide greater local representation.

The United Nations and the United States have denounced the use of force against peaceful demonstrators.

Based on reporting by Reuters and AP

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