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News Wrap: Iraqi Government Attempts to Minimize Protester Turnout

March 4, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT
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HARI SREENIVASAN: There were major new protests today across much of the Middle East, from Egypt to Iraq and the Arabian Peninsula.NewsHour correspondent Kwame Holman has that report.

KWAME HOLMAN: In Baghdad, demonstrators targeted the government of prime minister Nouri al-Maliki for a second straight Friday. But their goal was different from the protests in other Arab states.

ALI KHUDIER, Iraqi (through translator): The aim of the demonstrations is not to topple the government. On the contrary, it is to put pressure on the government to provide basic services to citizens. And this is a right which is included in the Iraqi constitution.

KWAME HOLMAN: Iraq’s government imposed a vehicle ban, trying to limit turnout. And The Washington Post reported Maliki’s security forces have cracked down on activists and independent media in recent days.

To the west, in Jordan, the governing system was challenged in the streets of Amman, with calls to establish a constitutional monarchy that would render King Abdullah a figurehead.

HAMZEH MANSOUR, Secretary General, Islamic Action Front (through translator): Jordanians need reforms. Jordanians have paid an expensive price for the wrong policies.

KWAME HOLMAN: On the Arabian Peninsula, protests continued in Bahrain. And, in Yemen, up to 100,000 people rallied in the capital, Sanaa, against President Ali Abdullah Saleh. He again rejected demands he leave office now, instead of in 2013.

Meanwhile, in Egypt, thousands gathered again in Tahrir Square, demanding further change. Essam Sharaf, appointed prime minister yesterday by the military government, visited the square and promised to act on grievances. And a constitutional referendum was announced for March 19.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Several thousand people also protested in Turkey over the arrests of eight journalists. Officials say they were detained as part of a probe into an alleged plot to overthrow the government.

The lone Christian member of Pakistan’s Cabinet was laid to rest today, two days after his murder. Shahbaz Bhatti was assassinated after he opposed executing those who insult Islam. His Roman Catholic funeral took place in a small, largely Christian village. Later, he was buried in a cemetery next to his father. In Islamabad, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani attended a separate mass. He vowed to find Bhatti’s killers and bring them to justice.

The man accused of trying to kill an Arizona congresswoman has been indicted on 49 new federal counts. Jared Lee Loughner had already pleaded not guilty to charges that he tried to assassinate Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and kill two of her aides. She was critically wounded.

Today, Loughner was indicted in the murders of U.S. District Judge John Roll and Gabe Zimmerman, an aide to Giffords. In all, six people were killed and 13 wounded in the January attack.

State employees in Wisconsin braced for layoffs today. Republican Governor Scott Walker planned to issue pink slips to 1,500 workers unless 14 Democrats end their boycott of the state Senate. The boycott has blocked a vote on stripping public workers of most collective bargaining rights.

Last night, protesters were forced to vacate the state capitol, after nearly three weeks. A judge barred them from staying inside after-hours.

A $424 million satellite designed to monitor the Earth’s climate fell into the Pacific Ocean today. It was on a rocket that NASA launched early this morning from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. But the rocket and satellite plummeted to the sea a few minutes later. The same thing happened to another climate satellite on the same type of rocket two years ago.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.