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Iran blames Baghdad for failing to protect Najaf consulate

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DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran said on Thursday the Iraqi government is responsible for protecting its consulate in the holy city of Najaf, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said on Thursday, a day after Iraqi protesters attacked and set fire to the building.

“The Iraqi government is responsible to secure safety of diplomatic missions and diplomats in Iraq … Tehran strongly condemns the attack and demands the Iraqi government’s firm response to the aggressors,” State TV quoted Mousavi as saying.

In a new level of violence in demonstrations aimed at the downfall of an Iran-backed government, Iraqi protesters on Wednesday stormed and torched the Iranian consulate in the southern city of Najaf.

Iran’s state news agency IRNA said staff at the consulate, who had evacuated shortly before demonstrators broke in, were “safe and unharmed”. Iraq has condemned the attack.

The protests, which began in Baghdad on Oct. 1 and have spread through southern cities, pose the biggest challenge to Iraq’s Shi’ite Muslim-dominated political order since it emerged after a 2003 U.S. invasion toppled Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein.

(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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