April 25, 2005
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraqi politicians, pressured by the United States, tried again Monday to end a nearly three-month deadlock over forming a new transitional government, with insurgents emboldened by the impasse launching well-coordinated weekend attacks that killed 29.
Three road bombs aimed at U.S. military convoys exploded in the capital Monday, including one in western Baghdad that killed an American soldier, said Army Lt. Col. Clifford Kent.
Another roadside bomb hit a convoy in eastern Baghdad on Sunday, killing one American soldier and wounding two, the U.S. military said. Iraqi police said two civilians also were wounded.
At least 1,569 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
Militants also launched two separate attacks Monday aimed at Iraq's oil industry in the north, setting fire to pumps near Kirkuk and opening fire on police guarding a convoy of tanker trucks, officials said. Two policemen were wounded and three insurgents arrested in a one-hour gunbattle over the convoy, police said.
On Sunday, lawmakers loyal to Prime Minister-designate Ibrahim al-Jaafari said he was ready to announce a Cabinet that would exclude his interim predecessor, Ayad Allawi.
Al-Jaafari had decided, some members of his political bloc said, to shun further attempts to include members of the party headed by Allawi, the secular Shiite politician who was prime minister as the country prepared for elections Jan. 30.
Members of Allawi's Iraqi List, which controls 40 seats in the National Assembly, said his party had not been officially informed of the development. Allawi loyalists were bidding for at least four ministries, including a senior government post and a deputy premiership.
"Whoever says the Iraqi List has withdrawn from the negotiations about the Cabinet is not right. We haven't done that," Iraqi List legislator Hussein al-Fadr said Monday.
Al-Jaafari's list could be submitted to parliament Monday, some officials said, but others indicated Tuesday was more likely. Many such forecasts have proven wrong earlier.
Many Shiites have long resented the secular Allawi, accusing his outgoing administration of having included former members of Saddam's Baath Party, which brutally repressed the majority Shiites and Kurds.
"I don't see how it can be national unity government without our participation," Iraqi List legislator Hussein al-Sadr told reporters.
Members of al-Jaafri's United Iraqi Alliance, the largest bloc in parliament, were holding several rounds of talks Monday.
Sunnis initially tried to include former Baathists on their list of names for ministerial posts, said Jawad al-Maliki, a lawmaker and senior member in the alliance. But when that was rejected, they dropped their demand, he told reporters.
There had been intense pressure to end the political bickering after a recent increase in insurgent violence that many blamed on the continuing political turmoil nearly three months after the elections.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice telephoned Massoud Barzani, head of the Kurdish Democratic Party, to ask him to finish forming a government as soon as possible, two State Department officials said Monday on condition of anonymity. Rice did not provide a formula of her own in the Friday phone call, one of the officials said.
Rice also met at the White House Friday with Adil Abdul Mahdi, a senior Shiite politician who is slated to be one of Iraq's new vice presidents, one official said. Rice conveyed the message that the Bush administration wanted to see a government formed quickly.
President Jalal Talabani told a Turkish newspaper that Iraq's Kurds won't accept the establishment of an Islamic state. Talabani, a Kurd, added that Iraq's Islamic identity would be respected.
"We Kurds will never accept the formation of an Islamic regime in Iraq," Talabani was quoted as saying in Monday's Sabah newspaper.
"Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen, Sunni, Shia, Muslims, Christians all live together and this structure would not allow an Islamic regime," he said.
"All of us, including Islamic parties, want a democratic, federal, united and independent Iraq. We will never pass legislation that is contrary to Islam."
On Sunday, an emboldened Iraqi insurgency staged carefully coordinated dual bombings in Saddam's hometown of Tikrit and a Shiite neighborhood in western Baghdad, killing and wounding dozens of Iraqi police and civilians.
Also, the U.S. military said it had detained four more suspects in the downing of a civilian Mi-8 helicopter Thursday. All 11 passengers and crew were killed, including a survivor gunned down by insurgents. Ten suspects have been apprehended in all, the military said.
A vehicle packed with explosives was driven into a crowd gathered in front of a popular ice cream shop in Baghdad's western al-Shoulah neighborhood Sunday, police Maj. Mousa Abdul Karim said. Minutes later, as police and residents rushed to help the victims, a second suicide car bomber plowed into the crowd. At least 23 people were killed and 41 wounded, officials at two hospitals said Monday.
In Tikrit, two remotely detonated car bombs exploded in quick succession outside a police academy, killing at least six Iraqis and wounding 33, police and a hospital official said. The blasts occurred as recruits were about to travel to Jordan for training, said police Lt. Shalan Allawi.
Al-Qaida in Iraq, the country's most feared militant group, claimed responsibility for the Tikrit and eastern Baghdad attacks in statements posted on militant Web sites. The group also claimed responsibility for a roadside bomb targeting a U.S. patrol near the Abu Ghraib prison, west of Baghdad. The U.S. military said no one was hurt in that attack.
The authenticity of those claims could not be verified.
The U.S. military said a suicide car bomb exploded in Ramadi, 70 miles west of Baghdad, on Monday, wounding two civilians and slightly damaging a U.S. Marine vehicle; and a 20-year-old Iraqi died at a U.S. military hospital of injuries he suffered two weeks ago while attacking coalition forces.
Elsewhere, Iraqi police discovered the bodies of three people - including one wearing an Iraqi Army uniform - in a river in the center of the country, the Polish military said Monday. The bodies were found late Sunday evening near Tahir, 25 miles east of Diwaniyah, Lt. Col. Zbigniew Staszkow said.