Thousands of supporters of Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr have
rallied in the streets of Baghdad to protest a planned U.S.-Iraqi
security agreement that would extend the presence of American forces in
Iraq. VOA's Purnell Murdock has more from Washington.
security, tens of thousands of Iraqi demonstrators chanted anti-U.S.
slogans and waved Iraqi flags as they marched from Baghdad's Sadr City
district to the central Mustansiriyah Square Saturday. Some burned
effigies of President George Bush and U.S. Secretary of State
The mass demonstration comes as U.S. and
Iraqi leaders try to build political support for the draft security
agreement. The deal would provide a legal framework for U.S. troops to
stay in Iraq after their United Nations mandate expires on December 31.
U.S. Defense Department has said the draft includes target dates for
the withdrawal of at least some of the 154,000 U.S. troops
stationed in Iraq.
Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr on Saturday
called on Iraq's parliament to reject the U.S.-Iraqi security pact,
saying it will not end the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq. His
message was delivered at a rally by his aide Sheik Abdul-Hadi
"I support every Sunni, every Shi'ite and every
Christian rejecting this agreement," the aide said reading the
statement. "I denounce, condemn, reject and disown anyone who assaults
the Sunnis, the Shi'ites, the Christians in Iraq and Iraq's minorities."
Defense Secretary Robert Gates and U.S. Secretary of State Rice briefed
key members of Congress on the draft Friday. It has not been publicly
Gates says top U.S. military officers are satisfied
that the proposed deal offers adequate protection to U.S. troops in
Iraq. He also says the draft got a generally positive response from
lawmakers he spoke to on Friday.
The Bush administration has
said the text does not need ratification by Congress. But a final deal
will require the approval of Iraq's parliament and other bodies.