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US Condemns Iraq Violence, Urges Government to Exercise 'Restraint'

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks to the press at the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad, Iraq, Jan. 9, 2019.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has condemned deadly violence during protests in Iraq and called on the country's government to "exercise maximum restraint," the State Department said Tuesday.

In a call with Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi, Pompeo "condemned the recent violence in Iraq and noted that those who violated human rights should be held accountable," the department said in a statement.

"The secretary lamented the tragic loss of life over the past few days and urged the Iraqi government to exercise maximum restraint.

"Pompeo reiterated that peaceful public demonstrations are a fundamental element of all democracies, and emphasized that there is no place for violence in demonstrations, either by security forces or protestors."

Demonstrations in Iraq began with demands for an end to rampant corruption and chronic unemployment but escalated with calls for a complete overhaul of the political system.

They were unprecedented because of their apparent spontaneity and independence in a deeply politicized society, and have also been bloody -- with more than 100 people killed and 6,000 wounded in one week.