BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ Iraq on Monday denied reports that the killing of a Shiite Muslim cleric had sparked unrest.

Iraqi opposition groups outside the country have alleged that the killing of Ayatollah Mohammed Sadiq al-Sader and two of his sons last Friday touched off riots in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad and in the country's heavily Shiite southern provinces.

Opposition groups said at least 100 people _ and possibly up to 300 _ have died in the riots.

President Saddam Hussein's government is made up of minority Sunni Muslims, while Iraq's population is mainly Shiite Muslims.

There was no way to independently confirm the reports of unrest, which the government again denied Monday.

``We once again confirm that what is being alleged by hostile media and circles on the so-called disturbances in a number of provinces ... is a figment of imagination,'' Uday al-Tai, director-general of the official Iraqi News Agency, told reporters Monday.

He added that enemies of Iraq ``want to stir trouble and undermine the country's unity.''

Asked about reports of disturbances in Baghdad, al-Tai said: ``I confirm once again to you that all these reports are completely unfounded.''

Al-Tai said the government planned to take foreign journalists in Baghdad on a tour of the southern provinces of Nasiriya and Amara to prove its case. He did not say when that trip would be.

The Information Ministry took reporters to Saddam City, a suburb of Baghdad, on Saturday six hours after reports of unrest first surfaced. By the time reporters arrived, dusk had fallen and ministry guides refused to let reporters leave their cars or interview residents of the poor, Shiite neighborhood.

In 1991, Saddam's forces crushed a southern Shiite uprising after the Persian Gulf War. The move prompted the United States and its allies to set up a southern ``no-fly'' zone to protect the Shiite Muslims from Saddam's troops.