Thousands rally in Iraq against US troop presence

By the Associated Press | May 26, 2011 | 2:17 AM EDT

BAGHDAD (AP) — Tens of thousands of followers of a Shiite anti-American cleric are rallying in Baghdad, demanding the U.S. military leave Iraq at the end of the year.

Thursday's demonstration by Muqtada al-Sadr's supporters comes as Iraqi leaders weigh whether they should ask the U.S. troops to stay on.

Washington is pushing Baghdad for a quick decision on whether to keep some of the 46,000 soldiers currently in Iraq beyond a Dec. 31 departure deadline to ensure security.

The U.S. military counted about 300 busloads of people from Iraq's Shiite south converging on eastern Baghdad's Sadr City for the demonstration.

U.S., Israeli and British flags are painted on the neighborhood's roads to be stomped on by marchers in a show of defiance.