Reuters International

Supporters of prominent Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr hold a sit-in at Tahrir Square in Baghdad April 19, 2016. REUTERS/Khalid al Mousily

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By Saif Hameed

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq's powerful Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr on Wednesday called for renewed protests demanding that parliament approves a long-delayed new cabinet and end political and sectarian wrangling that is hampering a vote on the matter.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced an overhaul of the government in February in a bid to tackle corruption. But the process has been slowed by disputes and protests.

The last proposal that Abadi planned to put to a vote before parliament consisted of a cabinet of technocrats.

In a statement received by email, Sadr called for "continuing peaceful protests in the same intensity and even more in order to pressure the politicians and the lovers of corruption."

"Nobody has the right to stop it otherwise the revolution will take another turn," he said in the statement, in an apparent reference to Abadi's decision to restrict protests in Baghdad to the central Tahrir Square.

Sadr's followers started demonstrating in central Baghdad on Sunday in support of his warning the day before for politicians to approve a new cabinet by Tuesday.

Sadr also asked the MPs loyal to him not to take part in any session other than one convened for the cabinet vote, and asked them to withdraw from a sit-in with other lawmakers inside the parliament as it prevented the assembly from reaching the quorum required to hold a formal voting session.

The prime minister has warned the crisis is threatening to hamper Iraq's campaign against Islamic State militants who still control swathes of territory in the north and west of the oil-rich state.

Iraq, a major OPEC exporter which sits on one of the world's

largest oil reserves, ranks 161th out of 168 countries on

Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index.

Corruption became a major issue after oil prices collapse in 2014, shrinking the state budget at a time when it needed additional income to pay for the war on Islamic State.

(Reporting by Saif Hameed.; Writing by Maher Chmaytelli; Editing by Toby Chopra and Raissa Kasolowsky)

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