Supporters of cleric Muqtada al-Sadr occupy the Parliament for the third consecutive day

Iraq tightens security in Baghdad amid fears of clashes between rival groups

Iraq ordered on Monday to reinforce security force units both inside and outside Baghdad's Green Zone, where Parliament has been occupied since Saturday by followers of Shiite cleric and Iraqi political leader Muqtada al-Sadr, amid calls for a demonstration by the rival alliance.

Captain Ali al Saadi of the Baghdad Operations Command told Efe that "security measures have been reinforced in and around the Green Zone through the deployment of additional army, police and riot control units in anticipation of any violations during the demonstrations that are planned for tonight".

The Coordination Framework, the alliance of Iraqi Shi'ite parties led by pro-Iranian formations rival to al-Sadr's movement, yesterday called on its supporters to demonstrate on Monday against the takeover of Parliament. The note included a call to "demonstrate peacefully in defence of the state" near the Green Zone, the fortified area in central Baghdad where parliament has been seized since Saturday by thousands of al-Sadr supporters.

"There are fears of clashes between Sadrist movement protesters and Coordination Framework protesters," Al Saadi said, adding that "strict security measures have been taken to prevent such clashes".

Al-Sadr's supporters are continuing their third day of occupation of the Parliament, their second since Wednesday, when they occupied its headquarters for a few hours after news spread that the Coordination Framework was to convene a session to choose its candidate for president, a step before the formation of a government.

The Shiite cleric's supporters oppose the Framework's proposed prime ministerial candidate, former minister Mohamed Shia al-Sudani, promoted by former prime minister Nuri al-Maliki (2006-2014), al-Sadr's great political rival among the Shiite population, the majority branch of Islam in Iraq.

Al Sadr has described the protest by his supporters as a "spontaneous and peaceful revolution" and urged his followers to continue to pursue political, constitutional and electoral reforms.

The Sadrist Bloc won last October's legislative elections with 73 seats in a fragmented lower house of 329 deputies, but was forced to resign last June after an alliance led by pro-Iranian Shi'ite rivals blocked a vote for president.