Iraq: G.I. Dead, Hostages Released

A suicide bomber detonated his explosives belt on a bus Monday, Feb. 20. 2006, in the Shiite district of Kazamiyah, killing 12 people and injuring 15, police said. AP

Three attacks today in Iraq have killed at least 24 people, including a U.S. soldier, and injured at least 50 more. The soldier was killed when his vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb southeast of Karbala, the U.S. military said.

The worst attack has been a suicide bombing on a Baghdad bus that claimed at least a dozen lives. There was another suicide attack at a restaurant in Mosul.

Two Macedonian contractors were freed by kidnappers four days after they were abducted in Basra, a British official said without giving further details.

Back in Baghdad, a bomb left in a bag near a stand selling tea and sandwiches killed some day laborers waiting for jobs.

A vendor says a man who bought tea from him and drank it left the bag and walked away before it exploded. The distraught vendor says "We need a solution. We can't live like this."

Meanwhile, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq warned Iraqi politicians they risk a loss of American support if they do not establish a genuine national unity government, saying the United States will not invest its resources in institutions run by sectarians.

U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad delivered his blunt warning during a rare press conference after signs that talks on a new government following the December elections were not going well because of sharp differences among the country's Shiite, Sunni Arab and Kurdish political parties.

Failure to establish a unity government that includes a strong role for Sunni Arabs would fail to undermine the Sunni-dominated insurgency and throw into question U.S. plans for a phased withdrawal of the 138,000 American troops.

Khalilzad said that overcoming the sectarian and ethnic divide requires a government of national unity, which is "the difference between what exists now and the next government." The outgoing government is dominated by Shiites and Kurds.

Khalilzad told the Shiites that the key security Defense and Interior ministries must be in the hands of people "who are nonsectarian, broadly acceptable and who are not tied to militias."

The ambassador reminded the Iraqis that the United States has spent billions to build up Iraq's police and army and "we are not going to invest the resources of the American people and build forces that are run by people who are sectarian."

In other developments:

  • Iran is in Iraq, Khalilzad said Monday. He also criticized Iran for demanding that British forces immediately withdraw from the southern Iraqi city of Basra. The demand was made Feb. 17 by Iranian Foreign Minister Manushehr Mottaki while on a visit to Lebanon.

  • Osama bin Laden vowed never to be captured alive and said the U.S. military had become as "barbaric" as Saddam Hussein in an audiotape reposted on a militant Islamic Web site after first being broadcast last month. In the tape posted to the Web site Monday, bin Laden offered the United States a long-term truce but also said his al Qaeda terror network would soon launch a fresh attack on American soil.

  • Switzerland has launched an investigation into a fifth party in connection with kickbacks and corruption during the United Nations' oil-for-food program in Iraq, authorities said Monday. The investigation is focusing on alleged violations of Switzerland's earlier embargo on trade with Iraq, as well as money laundering and bribery of foreign officials, the Federal Prosecutor's Office said in a written statement to The Associated Press.

  • Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has said that a new Iraqi government can be launched within a month, Japan's Foreign Ministry said Monday. Talabani told Toshiro Suzuki, the ambassador, on Sunday in Baghdad that forming a new government in a month would be possible as political factions are increasing cooperation among them as they understand the importance of a unity government, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

    • Joel Roberts

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