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Thousands Of Sadr Followers Rally In Baghdad Against U.S. Presence

Supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr march over Israeli, British, and U.S. flags in Baghdad on May 26.
Tens of thousands of followers of Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr have staged a massive rally in Baghdad calling for U.S. forces to leave.

Under a bilateral security agreement, the remaining around 46,000 U.S. troops are due to leave Iraq by the end of the year.

But Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has called on political leaders to discuss whether some of the troops should stay beyond 2011 to support and train local forces.

In a carefully staged show of force, Sadr supporters -- wearing uniforms in the red, white and black of Iraq's flag -- marched down a main street in Baghdad's Sadr City neighborhood on May 26 stamping over U.S., British and Israeli flags painted on the tarmac.

Sadr, whose Mahdi Army militia fought American troops in the years after the 2003 U.S. invasion, is a member of the governing coalition.

In April, he threatened to revive the Mahdi Army if the U.S. presence was extended.

compiled from agency reports