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Iraqi Protests Against Power Shortages Spread to Karbala

Protests against power shortages in Iraq have spread to the city of Karbala, a day after the country's electricity minister submitted his resignation to the government.

Iraq's Cabinet met Tuesday to discuss a response to Karim Waheed's resignation as bloody protests were staged across the country's south.

Government officials said Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki would decide whether to accept the electricity minister's resignation after the Cabinet meeting.

Waheed said he was stepping down Monday because of a power shortage during a brutal heat wave. Protesters in at least two southern Iraqi cities had demanded his dismissal.

Public anger with the electricity ministry has increased in recent days as temperatures reached 50 degrees Celsius. Protests turned violent in the southern cities of Basra and Nasiriyah, killing two protesters and wounding more than 20 police officers and civilians.

Waheed also said the demonstrations have been politicized "by all sides." He said his attempts to fix the power grid were undermined by a lack of funding and fuel, along with what he called the "excessive expectations" of impatient Iraqis.

Demonstrators want the government to fix the electricity crisis, an ongoing problem since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that led to the ousting of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Electric service in Iraq is limited to less than six hours a day, making air conditioning and refrigeration available only to those who can afford their own generators.

The violence has highlighted growing anger over the lack of basic services throughout Iraq.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.