Tens of thousands of Iraqis have been protesting, mostly in Baghdad and southern regions, since last month, demanding sweeping change to the political system established after the 2003 US-led invasion.
Iraqi security forces fired tear gas and live ammunition to disperse thousands of anti-government protesters on Saturday, killing at least one and wounding more than 200 in the capital Baghdad and in the country's south, police officials and a semi-official human rights commission said.
The largest protest took place in Baghdad, where tens of thousands of people gathered in and near a central square in defiance of a government crackdown that killed dozens over the past month.
Tens of thousands of Iraqis have been protesting, mostly in Baghdad and southern regions, since last month, demanding sweeping change to the political system established after the 2003 US-led invasion, which they blame for widespread corruption, high unemployment and poor public services.
Iraq's Foreign Ministry called on countries that issued statements urging Iraq's government to respect the will of Iraqis, saying those states "should respect Iraq's sovereignty and not interfere in Iraq's internal affairs."
Clashes in Umm Qasr
In the southern town of Umm Qasr, clashes between security forces and protesters injured 120 people, according to Iraq's semi-official human rights commission.
The Iraqi High Commission For Human Rights said security forces fired tear gas and live bullets to disperse hundreds of protesters near the vital Umm Qasr port on the Persian Gulf on Saturday morning. The commission said many of the wounded were being treated in a hospital in the town.
Operations at the port have been at a complete standstill since Wednesday after protesters first blocked its entrance on Tuesday.
In Baghdad, security forces fired tear gas at protesters who tried to cross to bridges over the Tigris River leading to the heavily fortified Green Zone that is home to the Iraqi government and several other embassies, including the US mission.
One protester was killed and at least 88 were wounded in Baghdad, according to police and medical officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to the media.
"Down with the government, down with the regime and down with corrupt parties," some of the protesters chanted in Baghdad.
On nearby Abu Nawas Street on the Tigris, protesters prevented authorities from closing it with a blast wall by confiscating the crane that was to be used to place the giant cement blocks.
Authorities had closed nearby Saadoun Street with blocks last month as it is a main road leading to Tahrir Square that has been the main protesting point in the capital since last month.
Biggest protest day since Saddam
Tens of thousands of Iraqis thronged central Baghdad on Friday demanding the root-and-branch downfall of the political elite in the biggest day of mass anti-government demonstrations since the fall of Saddam Hussein.
Five people died from injuries sustained on Friday night after security forces used tear gas and rubber bullets on protesters camped out in the capital's Tahrir Square.
Protests, in which 250 people have been killed over the past month, have accelerated dramatically in recent days, drawing huge crowds from across Iraq's sectarian and ethnic divides to reject the political parties in power since 2003.
Protests have been comparatively peaceful by day, becoming more violent after dark as police use tear gas and rubber bullets to battle self-proclaimed "revolutionary" youths.
Iraqi government should listen to protesters – Pompeo
The Iraqi government should listen to Iraqi protesters and relax recently imposed restrictions on the media and free expression, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement on Friday.
Pompeo also said all sides should reject violence, adding that the Iraqi government's probe of violence that occurred in early October "lacked sufficient credibility."
'Civil conflict' warning
In his weekly sermon, top Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani warned of "civil conflict, chaos and destruction" if the security forces or paramilitary groups crack down on the protests. And he gave an apparent nod to protesters who say the government is being manipulated from abroad, above all by Iran.
"No one person or group or side with an agenda, or any regional or international party, can infringe upon the will of Iraqis or force an opinion upon them," Sistani's representative said during a sermon in the holy city of Karbala.
Reuters reported this week that a powerful Iran-backed faction had considered abandoning Abdul Mahdi, but decided to keep him in office after a secret meeting attended by a general from Iran's Revolutionary Guards. An Iranian security official confirmed the general, Qassem Soleimani, had attended Wednesday's meeting, to "give advice."
Many see the political class as subservient to one or another of Baghdad's main allies, the US and Iran, who use Iraq as a proxy in a struggle for regional influence.
President Barham Salih said on Thursday that Abdul Mahdi would resign if parliament's main blocs agreed on a replacement.
Protesters say that wouldn't be enough; they want to undo the entire post-Saddam political system, which distributes power among sectarian parties.