Iraqi President Barham Salih has condemned attacks on anti-government protesters and media after a week of demonstrations and related clashes left more than 100 people dead and 6,000 wounded.
He called those committing the violence criminals and enemies, and used a televised address Monday to call for a halt to the escalation.
Salih said Iraq had experienced enough destruction, bloodshed, wars and terrorism.
The military admitted earlier Monday to using “excessive force” in confronting protesters in the Sadr City neighborhood of Baghdad.
The government took the step of removing security forces from the area and handing over patrols to police. Officials also pledged to hold accountable any member of the security forces who “acted wrongly.”
The protests in Baghdad and in several southern Iraqi cities have grown from initial demands for jobs and improved city services, such as water and power, to calls now to end corruption in the oil-rich country of nearly 40 million people.
Iraq’s cabinet issued a new reform plan early Sunday in an effort to respond to the protests that have taken authorities by surprise.
After meeting through the night Saturday, cabinet officials released a series of planned reforms, which addressed land distributions and military enlistments as well as increasing welfare stipends for poor families and training programs for unemployed youth.
Iraq’s Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi told his cabinet late Saturday in televised remarks that he is willing to meet with protesters and hear their demands. He called on the protesters to end their demonstrations.
Former Shi’ite militia leader Moqtada al-Sadr, who leads the largest opposition bloc in parliament, called Friday for the government to resign and said “early elections should be held under U.N. supervision.”