Tens of thousands of Sunni protesters blocked a motorway in western Iraq today amid rising sectarian tension.
Sunnis, a minority religious group in Iraq, have complained of official discrimination and the arrest of a Sunni politician's bodyguards in December has sparked weekly anti-government protests.
Rallies were held in Fallujah and Ramadi, which straddle the motorway through Anbar province - the scene of some of the fiercest fighting against US soldiers in the Iraq war.
today's demonstration appeared to be one of the largest since December.
Protesters performed noon prayers on the road, which links Iraq with Jordan.
Five protesters and two Iraqi soldiers were killed last week in clashes in Fallujah, and today demonstrators held up pictures of some of those killed.
Sunni cleric Abdul-Hameed Jadoua told the crowd that "the blood of the martyrs was shed so that the dignity of our Iraq and our tribes will be restored."
He demanded that soldiers be put on trial for killing the protesters and said the army must stay away.
"From this place, we tell the government that we do not want to see a soldier from now on, not only in Fallujah, but in all its suburbs and villages," he said.
The cleric rebuffed a call to arms. "I tell the young people that we do appreciate your zeal … but you should be disciplined and adhere to the directives of the clerics and tribal leaders so that we act in a reasonable way," he said.
Militant Islamist groups have other ambitions for the protests.
Al-Qaida-linked group the Islamic State of Iraq called on Sunnis to turn to violence against the government.
Spokesman Mohammed al-Adnani said Sunnis could either bow to Shi'ites or take up arms and restore "dignity and freedom."
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has claimed that al-Qaida and members of Saddam Hussein's ousted regime are involved in the demonstrations.
But organisers insisted today they have no links to such groups.