Baghdad protests
Supporters of Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr burn a US flag during a protest at al-Tahrir Square, Baghdad, demanding the government prevents the US troops entering Iraq REUTERS/Ahmed Saad

Thousands of Iraqis gathered in central Baghdad on Saturday in protest against US intervention in Iraq.

Demonstrators waved Iraqi flags and held up pictures of leading Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who says the country should not cooperate with what he calls American "occupiers".

Washington launched air strikes in Iraq in August to combat Islamic State militants – who seized large swathes of territory in the north of the country, and also in neighbouring Syria, over the summer.

The execution of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, by Islamic State extremists, were committed in retaliation for US airstrikes in Iraq.

The anti-US rally in Baghdad came a day after the United Nations held a meeting on Iraq. It has been working to build an international coalition aimed at defeating the Islamic State, and says more than 40 countries have offered assistance.

This week France became the first country to join the US in air strikes. The French airforce launched its first strikes on Islamic State targets in Iraq on Friday, less than 24 hours after the intervention was authorised by President François Hollande.

Iran has so far rejected requests from the US to hold bilateral talks on fighting the militants.