Thousands rally across Iraq in support of Shiite cleric

Iraq's influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has reiterated calls for government reform as thousands rallied across the country in his support.

The protests followed a similar showing of al-Sadr's strength last week, when thousands gathered in downtown Baghdad after months of stalled reform efforts, which are led by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and aimed at easing Iraq's economic crisis and tackling government corruption.

As crowds began to gather in Baghdad on Friday, al-Abadi issued a statement, urging the protesters to remain peaceful.

Al-Sadr previously threatened to storm Baghdad's highly fortified Green Zone, home to most of the country's political elite and foreign embassies.

Al-Abadi proposed a package of reforms last summer following nation-wide anti-corruption protests that quickly attracted widespread support, but since then he's failed to effect tangible change.