London, AP- Defence Secretary John Reid staged a public show of unity with the Iraqi prime minister in an attempt to defuse tensions following the rescue of two SAS soldiers in Basra who had been seized by Iraqi police.
Following talks in London with Ibrahim al-Jaafari, Mr Reid said that there had been no "fundamental breakdown of trust" between British and Iraqi forces in the city.
He insisted that the strategy of training the Iraqi forces to take over responsibility for security remained "on track", despite the admission by a senior Iraqi official that they had been heavily infiltrated by local militias.
For his part, Mr al-Jaafari also sought to play down the incident in Basra saying: "At this time, where there are forces in Basra and all over Iraq, such things can be expected to happen".
However in the city itself, some 500 protesters – including some police officers brandishing pistols and AK47s – staged a demonstration denouncing "British aggression" and calling for the SAS men to be put on trial.
In the capital, Baghdad, interior minister Baqir Solagh Jabr challenged the version of events of Monday given by the commander of the 12 Mechanised Brigade, Brigadier John Lorimer.
In an interview with the BBC, Mr Jabr denied that the Iraqi police had handed over the SAS men to the local militias, as Brigadier Lorimer had stated.
"That is not right, totally not right," he said.
He accused Brigadier Lorimer of reacting to "rumour" when he ordered his men to storm the police station and said that the building where the SAS men had been found was actually part of the police station.
Mr Reid however strongly defended the Army operation and denied that it had led to tensions with the Iraqis.