Thousands have rallied in Baghdad in support of firebrand Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr who has taken the lead role in protests demanding government reforms.

Al-Sadr's associate, Sheik Asad al-Nasiri, delivered a message from the cleric at a rally on Friday in the Iraqi capital, giving Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi 24 hours to implement wide-ranging reforms such as installing technocrats in key political positions.

Otherwise, the message says, the protesters will not limit themselves to sit-ins outside the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad, where the government is headquartered and where al-Sadr's followers demonstrated last week.

The weekly rallies in Baghdad are meant to pressure Iraq's political leadership.

Al-Abadi's efforts to implement reform have been thwarted by his own political missteps as well as the country's increasingly sectarian politics.