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Iraqi protesters shut down southern Nasiriyah oil field

Demonstrations have gripped Iraq since 1 October, as protesters demand overhaul of political system
Protesters chanted 'no homeland, no oil', as they forced closure of southern oil field (AFP/File photo)

Protesters broke into Iraq's southern Nasiriyah oil field on Saturday and forced employees to cut off electricity from its control station, taking the field offline, a security source and two oil sources said.

The oil field produces 90,000 barrels a day (bpd) of crude. Protesters chanted "no homeland, no oil", as they forced its closure, the sources told Reuters.

Mass protests have gripped Iraq since 1 October and protesters, most of them young, are demanding an overhaul of a political system they see as profoundly corrupt and keeping most Iraqis in poverty. Almost 500 people have been killed.

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The incident marks the first time protesters have shut an entire oil field, though they have blocked entrances to refineries and ports in the past. Iraq's economy depends on oil exports, which make up more than 90 percent of revenues for OPEC's second-biggest producer. No foreign companies operate at the oil field.

Last week, protesters blocked access to the main ports company in the southern Basra province after blocking the main roads to Basra oil fields and preventing employees from going to work, Anadolu reported.

Other southern fields will make up the amount from the shutdown, which won’t affect the country’s output, according to Bloomberg, which cited an anonymous source with knowledge of the situation. The halt is temporary until the Nasiriyah field is clear of protesters.

Protesters are demanding the removal of an entire ruling elite seen as enriching itself off the state and serving foreign powers - above all Iran - as many Iraqis languish in poverty without jobs, health care or education. They also demand the appointment of a premier with no party affiliation.

Iraqi President Barham Salih refused on Thursday to designate the nominee of an Iran-backed parliamentary bloc for prime minister, saying he would rather resign than appoint someone to the position who would be rejected by protesters, further extending weeks of political deadlock.