BAGHDAD, Iraq – Violent demonstrations broke out across Iraq, and the oil minister threatened to resign Monday after the government raised the prices of gasoline and cooking fuel by up to nine times.
The Cabinet raised the prices of gasoline, diesel, kerosene and cooking gas on Sunday to curb a growing black market, Oil Ministry spokesman Assem Jihad said.
The price of a liter of imported and super gasoline was raised to 17 cents, which is a fivefold increase from previous prices. There are about 3.8 liters in a gallon, meaning the new price is about 65 cents a gallon.
The price of locally produced gasoline was raised about sevenfold to about 12 cents per liter, or about 46 cents a gallon.
In Amarah, 180 miles southeast of Baghdad, police fired into the air to disperse hundreds of protesters gathered in front of the provincial government headquarters.
The demonstrators, however, did not leave, and some scuffled with police. Protesters also briefly blocked the main road between Amarah, Basra and Baghdad.
Drivers blocked roads and burned tires near fuel stations in the southern city of Basra, and hundreds of Iraqis demonstrated outside the governor’s headquarters to protest the price increases.
Oil Minister Ibrahim Bahr al-Uloum said that when the Cabinet increased prices, it also decided that the extra money would be used to establish a fund for more than 2 million low-income families to help them pay for the fuel.
Some aid money was supposed to reach the families before the price increases, but that did not happen, he said.
“Dr. Ibrahim will submit his resignation to the Iraqi government if the situation continues as is,” he said, referring to himself.