Two Ukrainian soldiers were wounded on Monday when clashes erupted between Ukrainian forces and Iraqi police on one side and demonstrators demanding jobs, our correspondent reported.

"A number of protesters and Iraqi policemen were injured ", he said, adding the protests were continuing.

The deputy commander of the Ukrainian forces in Kut said his forces had opened fire on demonstrators after the locals hurled two hand grenades at troops guarding the governorate building.

British alert

Elsewhere in the south, British soldiers on Monday closed a bridge near the local government headquarters, where jobless Iraqis had demonstrated on Saturday, and were searching passers-by. But they did not prevent people from gathering again for a third day.

The UK has around 10,000 troops 
in the oil-rich southern region

Foot patrols have also been increased in the area from which Iraqi police have been withdrawn after accusations that they opened fire on Saturday's crowd without warning. Six people were killed in the firing.

A spokesman for the British military in Iraq said on Monday he was unaware of any fresh protests in Amara or any extra security measures.

"Obviously they will be monitoring the situation and reacting as appropriate," he told AFP. British army helicopters had since dawn been hovering over the centre of the Shia town about 365km from Baghdad.

Gun fire

On Sunday, soldiers with batons charged a couple of hundred Iraqis who pelted rocks at them in Amara. No one was reported wounded and the protesters later reassembled. They  handed out a leaflet demanding the men who opened fire on the crowd on Saturday should be arrested. They also wanted a new governor.

Amara, a Shia majority town under British jurisdiction, had up until then been far quieter than central Iraq, where resistance fighters have waged a relentless campaign against US forces.