Iraqi minister says no ‘magic wand’ to end power problems temperatures climb

Friday, June 25, 2010

Iraqi official: No magic wand to end power outages

BAGHDAD — Iraq’s acting electricity minister urged the country Friday to cut down on air conditioning and said there is no “magic wand” to end the country’s power outages, which have led to violent protests as temperatures climb to 120 degrees Fahrenheit (50 degrees Celsius).

Many Iraqis get fewer than six hours of electricity each day, despite billions of dollars that have been spent trying to fix the nation’s power grid since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

“Brothers if you do not cooperate … the problem will persist because there is no magic wand or miracle that can solve the problem,” Hussain al-Shahristani said Friday as police beefed up security around the capital ahead of planned protests over the outages.

“I call upon the people who have more than one air conditioning to use only one in one room,” he said.

Earlier this week, two protesters were killed in the southern oil hub of Basra after a demonstration over power outages turned violent, prompting security forces to open fire.

The crisis has already led to the electricity minister’s resignation and poses a major test for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as he struggles to keep his job amid bickering over the formation of a new government more than three months after national elections. It also complicates efforts to stabilize the country as the U.S. military prepares to withdraw its forces by the end of next year.

Al-Shahristani, who also is the oil minister, took over the electricity sector Wednesday after his predecessor resigned in the wake of the deadly protest in Basra.

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