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“For more than two hundred years, presidents have used their authority to offer second chances to deserving individuals, including those in uniform who have served our country. These actions are in keeping with this long history,” the statement said.

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“We’re reinforcing in case the security forces make another push later,” said Abbas, a teenage protester who was helping to set up the makeshift barrier.

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Security forces have used live ammunition, tear gas and stun grenades against mostly young and unarmed protesters, killing more than 280 people.

Live ammunition was used on demonstrators as well as tear gas and sound bombs, police and medics say.

More than a hundred people have died in the second wave of demonstrations, in addition to the 157 who perished in the unrest that began on October 1. Thousands more have been injured.

Protesters, mostly unemployed youths, blame a political elite that has ruled Iraq since the toppling of Saddam Hussein in 2003, and demand a complete overhaul of the political system.

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At least 18 people were arrested, security sources said later. There appeared to be no deaths. At least 27 people sustained tear gas-related injuries, medical sources said.

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More than 260 Iraqis have been killed in demonstrations since the start of October against a government they see as corrupt and beholden to foreign interests, above all Iran.

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People were injured after security forces dispersed the crowds of protesters with tear gas but also with live ammunition fire.

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“We want an end to sectarian power-sharing, jobs should not be doled out based on whether you are Sunni or Shi’ite. We want all these parties gone and replaced with a presidential system,” said 22-year-old law student Abdulrahman Saad who has been camped out in Tahrir Square for nine days.

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“We are peaceful yet they fire on us. What are we, Islamic State militants? I saw a man die. I took a tear gas canister to the face."

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