BASRA, Iraq, Jan. 9 (UPI) -- Shiite demonstrators supporting the Iraqi government came out in force in southern Iraq, countering protests in mainly Sunni provinces, a report said.
The Islamic Ahlul Bayt News Agency, based in London, said tens of thousands of pro-government and Shiite demonstrators in Basra, Diwaniyah, Karbala and other provinces carried banners supporting Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and denouncing sectarian division.
Protesters chanted "No to sectarianism, no to dividing Iraq," the news agency said.
At a demonstration in Diwaniya province, south of Baghdad, Shiite cleric Qassim al-Moussawi told protesters "America and Israel" were behind the crisis over sectarianism, as well as "Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar."
"We reject dividing Iraq into three regions, Sunni, Shiite and Kurd," he said.