A clash has broken out between Iraq's prime minister and U.S. military and political leaders in Iraq over the construction of a three-mile-long concrete wall around a troubled neighborhood on the north side of Baghdad.
The Americans say the wall is necessary to combat Iraq's recent wave of bloody suicide bombings. But since the existence of the wall became known a few days ago, it has sparked intense opposition.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, on a visit to Cairo, called for the project to stop.
"I objected to the building of that wall," Maliki said, "and the building will stop. But it is not meant to isolate Adhamiya, only to protect it."
Residents of Adamiya, a neighborhood in northern Baghdad, took to the streets Monday to protest the 12-foot concrete wall that would encircle their neighborhood.
Protesters chanted "No, no to the wall," as they carried placards that read, "We reject this sectarian wall." Eyewitnesses put the crowd at more than a thousand.
For years, Sunni insurgents have mounted attacks from Adhamiya and sought refuge in its narrow, tangled alleyways. More recently, it has been the target of Shiite reprisal killings.
The U.S. military recently began walling off the Sunni enclave, installing check points and limiting access to the area. American officials say the wall will keep the residents safe. U.S. officials say the plan was developed in consultation with Iraqi military and police leaders.