Witnesses say demonstrators have taken to the streets in Iraq's second largest city to back the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, which has weathered over two weeks of angry protests.

The rally Tuesday in the mostly Shiite port city of Basra appears to be the largest show of support for the government since primarily Sunni protests erupted last month over grievances including the detention of prisoners and perceived second-class treatment.

An Associated Press journalist on the scene said more than 2,000 people participated in the Basra demonstration, some holding pictures of the Shiite prime minister.

At one point, they burned a picture of Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, the highest ranking member of Saddam Hussein's regime still at large. He recently voiced support for the Sunni anti-government protests.