Tens of thousands of followers of Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr have taken to the streets of Baghdad to demonstrate against a deal that would allow US forces to stay on in Iraq.
Waving Iraqi flags and chanting “Yes to Iraq!” and “No to the occupation!”, protestors set fire to US flags – but the atmosphere was mostly peaceful at the rally which had been authorised by the interior ministry.
The pact they are opposed to would replace a UN mandate authorising the presence of US-led forces in Iraq which expires at the end of the year. It requires approval by the Iraqi parliament, which is far from assured.
Under the deal, the US-led forces must end patrols of Iraqi streets by the middle of next year and withdraw fully from the country by the end of 2011.