- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 2, 2016

BAGHDAD (AP) - Iraq’s prime minister issued a travel ban on Tuesday for some sitting lawmakers and politicians amid corruption allegations that surfaced during the questioning in parliament of the country’s defense minister.

Defense Minister Khaled al-Obeidi told lawmakers on Monday that parliament speaker, Salim al-Jabouri, and other government officials and businessmen had tried to persuade him to secure specific contracts and to reinstate employees fired due to corruption. As well as the parliament speaker, Al-Obeidi mentioned the names of four sitting lawmakers, one former lawmaker and two parliamentary officials affiliated with the speaker.

Hours after the parliament session, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered an investigation into the corruption allegations. Tuesday’s statement from al-Abadi’s office said the decree is a temporary measure that bars those listed from leaving the country until an investigation is completed.

The defense minister was applauded by Shiite lawmakers as he laid out his allegations, but his fellow Sunni lawmakers angrily interrupted him.

“I have a lot of stories to tell, each one takes long time,” said al-Obeidi, who was in a military uniform and flanked by senior commanders. “I swear by God that I will reveal everything, I will not bargain… with the corrupt,” he added.

He said that the parliament speaker, an influential Sunni, promised him “a political future” if he cooperated. He said that one lawmaker tried to push him to sign several high-value deals with specific companies, including a $1billion catering contract, a $2.8 billion deal for armored vehicles and a $421 million deal for Humvees.

The parliament speaker and other lawmakers denied the accusations and called for an investigation.

Al-Abadi has faced growing anti-government protests demanding reform and calling for a fight against endemic corruption. Earlier this year, protesters stormed Baghdad’s highly fortified Green Zone twice in the space of a month.

The revelations come as the Iraqi government is gearing up for a major offensive to retake the northern city of Mosul from the Islamic State group, which still controls key areas in northern and western Iraq.

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