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Sadr Supporters Protest Planned US-Iraqi Security Agreement


Thousands of supporters of Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr rallied in the streets of Baghdad Friday to protest plans for a long-term U.S.-Iraq security agreement.

The protesters took to the streets after Friday prayers in the capital's Sadr City neighborhood and other cities across Iraq.

Sadr called Tuesday for protests against a possible agreement that could lead to an extended U.S. troop presence in Iraq. He said supporters should hold weekly demonstrations until Iraq's government cancels the negotiations with the United States.

The agreement would replace the current United Nations mandate for U.S. troops in Iraq, which expires at the end of this year.

Separately, U.S. forces said one Iraqi child was killed and another injured when a bomb exploded where they were playing in Baquba on Friday. Authorities said the children were playing near a garbage dump when the improvised explosive device went off.

Elsewhere, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told reporters in Stockholm that his government is working on plans to encourage tens of thousands of refugees to return home.

Mr. Maliki met with Swedish officials today, one day after a U.N.-backed conference in Stockholm on rebuilding Iraq.

He said the Iraqi government has earmarked funds as part of an effort to make Iraq more attractive to citizens who sought asylum in Europe and elsewhere.

Also today, the U.S. military said its forces killed a suspected al-Qaida arms dealer and captured three key members of al-Qaida's bombing network in a series of operations across the country today.

The military also said today a U.S. Marine had been removed from duty after Iraqis in Fallujah complained he was handing out coins that quoted verses of the Bible.

A spokesman says an investigation is under way. A military statement said U.S. troops are prohibited from "proselytizing any religion, faith or practices."

Some information for this report provided by Reuters.