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U.N. decries violence in Iraqi Kurdistan protests, urges calm

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U.N. decries violence in Iraqi Kurdistan protests, urges calm

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BAGHDAD (Reuters) – The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) said on Wednesday it was “deeply concerned” about violence and clashes during protests in the northern semi-autonomous Kurdish region this week and called for restraint on all sides.

At least three people were killed and more than 80 wounded on Tuesday when Kurdish demonstrators joined a second day of protests against years of austerity and unpaid public sector salaries amid tensions between their region and Baghdad.

They were killed in clashes with Kurdish security forces, local officials said, and some were injured when the crowd was shot at with rubber bullets and sprayed with tear gas.

Protesters also attacked several offices of the main political parties in Sulaimaniya province on Monday and Tuesday.

“The people have the right to partake in peaceful demonstrations, and the authorities have the responsibility of protecting their citizens, including peaceful protesters,” UNAMI said in a statement.

“Security forces also are urged to exercise maximum restraint in dealing with the demonstrators. UNAMI also calls on the demonstrators to avoid any act of violence, including the destruction of public and private properties,” it added.

UNAMI also called on the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to respect media freedoms after Kurdish Asayish security forces on Tuesday raided the offices of Kurdish private broadcast NRT in Sulaimaniya, and took the channel off the air.

(Reporting by Ahmed Aboulenein, Editing by William Maclean)

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