Iraqi PM accepts electricity minister's resignation

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Wednesday accepted the resignation of his besieged electricity minister, government spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh told AFP.

"It is correct that Electricity Minister Karim Wahid's resignation has been accepted," Dabbagh said.

Wahid's decision to quit came after a fiery demonstration in the southern city of Basra over the weekend against power rationing in which a man was killed amid chaotic scenes that saw protesters smash up a government building.

Dabbagh said Maliki had not yet decided who should replace Wahid but he said it was premature to say that Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani would take on responsibility for the electricity portfolio.

"There is a chance that he might but it is not yet decided," Dabbagh said of Shahristani's chances of succeeding Wahid.
Maliki warned Iraqis on Tuesday that two more years of power shortages lay ahead as there was no quick fix to the problem.

"The electricity problem cannot be over in one or two days," the prime minister said.

"The power stations being built by Siemens and GE will take two years to complete at least," he added, referring to the German and US engineering giants who are heavily involved in bolstering Iraq's electricity network.

Maliki described as "rioters" the hundreds of men who took to the streets of Basra on Saturday in heat that hit highs of 130 degrees Fahrenheit.

With Iraqis receiving power for just one hour in five, or less, from the national grid, only the few with access to their own generators and fuel have been able to refrigerate foodstuffs or air-condition their homes.

-AFP/NOW Lebanon

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