The fighting broke out after 70 protesters marched in the city centre of the town of Mokdadiyeh, 45km (28 miles) northeast of Baqubah, shouting pro-Saddam slogans and carrying posters of their fallen leader, witnesses told French news agency AFP.

No one was seriously hurt in the skirmishes, the witnesses said.

Three portraits of the former dictator were held high above the crowd and protesters chanted "All of Iraq says Saddam is the pride of our country", pledging to "sacrifice" themselves for Saddam.

They also held up two placards, one calling on the US-led coalition forces "to withdraw from Iraq" and another demanding the release of political prisoners.

A cameraman working for Aljazeera was arrested by Iraqi police as he filmed the scuffle, and handed over to US forces.

On 24 September, the US-installed Iraqi Governing Council slapped a two-week ban on Aljazeera and al-Arabiya television stations, stopping them from covering government activities for allegedly inciting violence against the US occupation.

Shias mourn lost leader

Hakim returned from 20 years in exile in Iran and died in a car bombing in Najaf

Meanwhile, around 10,000 Shia Muslims gathered on Friday by the grave of Ayat Allah Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim, on the 40th day of mourning for the slain cleric.

He was killed by a powerful car bomb along with 82 others in late August.

The mourners, including both men and women, carried posters of Hakim and shouted the name of the late cleric's brother, Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim, who succeeded his sibling as head of the prominent Shia political party, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI).

"Aziz, you are the leader," the crowd chanted, as green and black Islamic flags fluttered in the air by Hakim's mausoleum at Revolution Square in the heart of Najaf, 180km (110 miles) south of the capital.

Governing Council member Ibrahim Jaffari, head of the Shia Dawa party, and fellow council member Mohsen Abd al-Hamid, of the Sunni Islamic party, attended the ceremony.

High security

Rings of security, including police and agents from SCIRI's Badr Brigades militia, surrounded the grave site on the 40th day of mourning, which, according to Islamic tradition, brings an official close to relatives' grieving for the dead.

A small detachment of fighters from Iraq's main Kurdish political parties, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and Kurdistan Democratic Party, was also on hand.

Imam Ali shrine, where a bomb killed Hakim and dozens more

Hakim was killed, along with 82 others, minutes after delivering a Friday prayer service on 29 August at the Tomb of Imam Ali, one of the holiest shrines in Shia Islam, when a massive car bomb exploded as the cleric exited the mosque compound.

His death provoked anger toward the US-led coalition forces occupying Iraq, as Shia Muslims accused the Americans of failing to provide enough security in the country.