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Last Updated: Sunday, 1 June, 2003, 13:09 GMT 14:09 UK
Basra protests against UK leader
Tony Blair and Brigadier Adrian Bradshaw
Brigadier Adrian Bradshaw talks to Tony Blair on his visit to Basra
Iraqis in Basra have taken to the streets to protest against a British commander being installed as the de facto leader of the city.

The committee of utility experts charged with getting the city's infrastructure back on its feet is headed by Brigadier Adrian Bradshaw, the commander of the British Seventh Brigade, the Desert Rats.

On Sunday, when the committee met for the first time, protesters, reportedly as many as 5,000, gathered outside the military base in Basra, led by Shia Muslim clerics.

They carried banners with "No to British rule over Basra" and "We can rule ourselves" on them.

One of the organisers of the demonstration, Sheikh Ahmed Malki, told news agency AFP: "We demand an Iraqi governor, elected by the people while they are imposing a British governor on us."

Lawlessness

Iraq's second city is suffering from chronic shortages of water and electricity, rubbish is piling up in the streets and looting continues.

The original committee set up to restore utilities and key services in the city was disbanded on 24 May because it was found to be full of members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party.

It had been headed by Sheikh Muzahem al-Tamimi, a tribal leader who was also a member of the Baath Party, which had angered many local people.

Canal in Basra
Children play in a canal in Basra which is getting back to normal

The new technical committee will be run in conjunction with a separate political body which will set up a local government.

No date has been set for the establishment of the political body.

The organisers of Sunday's protest released a statement "rejecting a British governor and any administrative council imposed by the occupying forces".

They called on "all Iraqi political forces to quickly hold under UN sponsorship a conference" on Iraq's future.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Tony Blair visited British troops in Basra and praised them for the way they took the city.





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