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Street protests banned in Baghdad

Iraq has decided to officially ban street protests in the capital Baghdad and limited approved demonstrations sites to three soccer stadiums, a security official said on Wednesday, according to reports.

"We have specified Al-Shaab, Kashafa and Zawraa stadiums as permitted sites for demonstrations in Baghdad instead of Ferdus or Tahrir squares," the capital's security spokesman Major General Qassim Atta said at a news conference televised by state broadcaster Iraqiya TV.

The decision follows after regular demonstrations were held in Bagdad with thousands of people protesting against government corruption, poor basic services and unemployment.

"Many shop owners and street vendors have called us and complained to us because demonstrations have affected their work and the movement of traffic, "Major General Atta said.

Following uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, Iraqis have frequently been protesting since late February around the country, from the mainly Kurdish north to the Shiite south.

The authorities have responded by deploying guards, troops and internal security forces.

More than eight years after the U.S.-led invasion that ousted President Saddam Hussein, Iraq’s infrastructure remains severely damaged. The country suffers a chronic water shortage and electricity supply is intermittent making daily life difficult and leaving many Iraqis feeling frustrated.

(Sara Ghasemilee of Al Arabiya can be reached via email at: sara.ghasemilee@mbc.net)