The U.S. Embassy in Iraq on Wednesday condemned the killing and kidnapping of unarmed protesters in Iraq, amid mass demonstrations against corruption in the country.
"We deplore the killing and kidnapping of unarmed protesters, threats to freedom of expression, and the cycle of violence taking place," the embassy said in a statement.
"Iraqis must be free to make their own choices about the future of their nation."
The embassy called on Iraqi political leaders to "engage seriously and urgently with Iraqi citizens who are demanding reform".
"There is no path forward based on suppression of the will of the Iraqi people," it said.
At least 260 people have been killed and thousands injured in a second wave of protests in Iraq since last week against deep-seated corruption, unemployment and lack of basic services.
More than 230 people have been killed in a first wave of anti-government protests in October.
Popular anger has been simmering in Iraq in recent years due to rising unemployment and rampant corruption. Many people in the country have limited access to basic services such as electricity and clean water.
According to World Bank figures, Iraq's youth unemployment is around 25%. It is also ranked the 12th most-corrupt country in the world by several transparency organizations.
* Ahmed Asmar contributed to this report from Ankara