No blast walls, no parliament in Iraq
BAGHDAD - The speaker of the Iraqi parliament said on Thursday that he had ordered a halt to all work at the legislature until concrete blast walls removed in recent days are put back.
Osama al-Nujaifi said that if the government were confident that the security precaution was no longer necessary, then all of the protective barriers around the entirety of the Green Zone, Baghdad's fortified government and embassy compound, should be removed.
"I suspended the working hours... and we requested the return of all the blast walls," Nujaifi told a news conference at the parliament building inside the Green Zone.
"Removing the blast walls at this time is very dangerous for the employees of parliament," he said.
"If the government is convinced that the security situation is completely stable and it is able to protect people completely, I suggest removing all the blast walls from the Green Zone and making it open."
Nujaifi said that work had begun on Thursday on restoring the blast walls, which are designed to shield against bomb blasts.
He said it was scheduled to be completed by Friday, the Muslim day of prayer and rest, but that MPs and other parliamentary staff would only return to their desks once the work had been finished.
The parliament building has been hit by several attacks, despite the protective cordon thrown up around the Green Zone as a whole.
On April 12, 2007, a suicide bomber killed eight people at the parliament building. On November 29, 2011, a suicide attacker blew up an explosives-packed vehicle near the building, killing at least one person and wounding two.
Iraq has seen a string of attacks that have left at least 142 people dead since June 13 -- more than were killed in all of May, according to official figures.