Iraqis protest against the government and the lack of basic services outside the regional government headquarters in the southern city of Basra on September 5, 2018. - Iraqi security forces opened fire on protesters today as the two sides clashed in the southern city of Basra, a day after six people were killed in demonstrations over poor public services. (Photo by Haidar MOHAMMED ALI / AFP)        (Photo credit should read HAIDAR MOHAMMED ALI/AFP/Getty Images)
Protesters torch buildings in Basra, Iraq
01:37 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

The European Union’s ambassador to Iraq had to cancel several meetings with Iraqi officials this week after becoming sick when he drank tainted water while visiting the southern Iraqi city of Basra.

The EU official, Ramon Blecua, confirmed on Twitter he had fallen ill as a result of drinking polluted water in Basra, one of Iraq’s largest cities.

“UNICEF doctor diagnosed the cause as water pollution,” Blecua tweeted Thursday.

“I did not (intend) to take my solidarity with the people of Basra that far, but certainly now share how you feel.”

Blecua said he was in Basra with an EU delegation to work with the city on new projects “to improve governance, delivery of services and job creation.”

Water pollution has been the source of violent protests in Basra. Iraqis have taken to the streets over the city’s contaminated water supply, long power outages during extreme heat and high unemployment.

Iraqis protest in September over the lack of basic services in the southern city of Basra.

The municipal water supply is contaminated by salt water, sending thousands to the hospital in recent months.

At least 60,000 people have suffered from temporary poisoning in Basra by drinking contaminated water, according to the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency reported last month.

Al-Ashar River, filled with sewage and trash, runs through the old city of Basra  in September.

In early September, seven protesters were killed and at least 89 others injured during clashes with Iraqi security forces in three days of demonstrations.

CNN’s Ben Wedeman contributed to this report.