- Associated Press - Monday, June 21, 2010

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq’s electricity minister resigned Monday as the government scrambled to do damage control following a surge in angry protests over the lack of electricity despite years of promises the situation would improve.

The resignation of Karim Waheed came as frustration over the issue erupted over into violence, with two protesters killed when security forces opened fire to disperse a crowd this weekend in the oil hub of Basra. Riot police also used water cannons after demonstrators began pelting them with stones Monday in Nasiriyah, another mainly Shiite southern city.

The unrest has raised concerns that growing anger over the lack of basic services could jeopardize efforts to stabilize Iraq even as security improves.

The Iraqi public has become increasingly frustrated over the government’s inability to provide power, clean water and other utilities even after the spending of billions of dollars in U.S. and Iraqi reconstruction money.

Iraqis have suffered for years with less than six hours per day of electricity, with many families paying more than $50 per month for private generators to make up for the frequent outages. The problem came to a head as temperatures have soared well above 110 degrees this summer.

Mr. Waheed said in a televised address that “the impatience of Iraqis about their suffering” would have been ended by a series of projects that would have fixed the shortages, but the issue has become politicized.

“So I announce with courage my resignation from my post as electricity minister,” he said.

Frustration is high as rival factions jockey for influence amid stalled efforts to form a new government more than three months after national elections.

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