Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi on Friday gave orders to military commanders to facilitate civilians’ entry into Baghdad's fortified Green Zone while improving access to the streets across the country closed off by political and security factions.
In Baghdad, the capital city of Iraq, and other cities, many no-go areas were created by political parties and influential figures as a security procedure against the repeatedly car bombings since the US-led invasion toppled the former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein in 2003.
The Green Zone is a district in central Baghdad with heavy defence. Many government buildings and most of the Western embassies are located there.
According to online statements, amid expected fresh street protests in the capital and southern cities on Friday, Abadi ordered commanders to apply a plan "to protect civilians ... from being targeted by terrorism."
Abadi has announced new measures to crackdown on corruption and improve state finances by axing certain government posts, including the position of vice presidents and deputy prime ministers.
The plans were approved by the Council of Ministers and the parliament.
Abadi’s reforms come after weeks of demonstrations in the Iraqi capital Baghdad and southern cities against corruption.
Iraq’s top Shiite Muslim cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani has urged Abadi to do more to rid the government of sectarianism and appoint officials based on their credentials in order to fight corruption.
Abadi urged an end to sectarian and party quotas for government positions, which often allow unqualified individuals to make their way into the government.
Presently, Iraq has three vice presidents, two of whom are Shiites and one Sunni. The country likewise has three deputy prime ministers - a Shiite, a Sunni, and a Kurd.
The plans would see the positions of Vice Presidents Nouri al Maliki, Osama al Nujaifi and Iyad Allawi abolished, as well as the dismissal of Deputy Prime Ministers Baha Araji, Saleh al Mutlaq and Roj Nuri Shaways.
According to the Iraqi constitution, the Iraqi prime minister has the power to dismiss ministers with the consent of the parliament.
Abadi also called for the relaunching of corruption probes and the reduction of officials' bodyguards, with surplus funds being redirected to the interior and defence ministers.
Abadi is pushing major reforms to Iraq's governing system aimed at combating graft and incompetence which he says have deprived Iraqis of basic services while undermining government forces in the fight against ISIS militants in the north and west.
His initiative is intended to eliminate layers of government, scrapping sectarian and party quotas for state positions and reopening corruption investigations. It gives the premier the power to fire regional and provincial bosses.
Abadi announced the first package of reforms earlier this month following a call for tougher action by senior Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani and weeks of demonstrations demanding better public services and an end to graft.
Abadi also ordered the formation of a legal committee on Friday to review the ownership of state properties and return illegally gained assets to the state. Critics say some officials have abused their authority to appropriate state-owned properties for personal use.