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81 Wounded in Northern Iraq Protests

Protesters hold slingshots during clashes with riot policemen in Sulaimaniya, 260 km (162 miles) northeast of Baghdad, April 18, 2011

Medical officials in northern Iraq say at least 81 people were wounded in the northern Kurdish region Monday, during a second straight day of clashes between security forces and demonstrators protesting official corruption and a lack of basic services.

Hospital sources in the city of Sulaimaniya say riot police used live bullets and tear gas to break up protests there.

At least 35 people were hurt a day earlier in Sulaimaniya, the region's second-largest city and the hub of nearly continuous protests since February. At least seven protesters have been killed since February 17 in Sulaimaniya.

Demonstrators in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region, who appear to be inspired by rallies in other Arab countries, have demanded political and economic reforms but not a change in government.

During a meeting Saturday with U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki praised Iraq's security forces as ready to protect the country.

Boehner's unannounced trip to Iraq was his first to the country since he became speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives in January.

Mr. Maliki said Iraq's armed forces are "able to bear the responsibility of maintaining security." He has maintained that the estimated 47,000 U.S. troops currently in Iraq must leave by December 31 as required by a security agreement between Baghdad and Washington.

U.S. forces have been in Iraq since a U.S.-led invasion in March 2003 led to the ouster of Iraq's late dictator Saddam Hussein.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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