U.S. Talks With Insurgents

Iraqis bring the body of an Iraqi woman from the rubble of her destroyed house after a mortar attack in Baghdad Sunday. The explosion killed the woman and two of her children and injured another child.
AP
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld acknowledged Sunday that U.S. officials have met with insurgents in Iraq, after a British newspaper reported that two such meetings took place recently at a villa north of Baghdad.

Insurgent commanders "apparently came face to face" with four American officials during meetings on June 3 and June 13 at a villa near Balad, about 25 miles north of Baghdad, The Sunday Times reported.

When asked on NBC's "Meet the Press" about the report of the two meetings, Rumsfeld said: "Oh, I would doubt it. I think there have probably been many more than that."

Under pressure to show progress on Iraq, President Bush appears to be softening his once-firm line against dealing directly with insurgents - now willing to engage something besides military force, CBS News Correspondent Joie Chen reports.

Rumsfeld insisted the talks with insurgents did not involve negotiations with Iraq's most-wanted terrorist, Jordanian-born Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, but were rather facilitating efforts by the Shiite-led government to reach out to minority Sunni Arabs, who are believed to be the driving force behind the insurgency.

In other developments:

  • A string of suicide attacks killed at least 33 people in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on Sunday, the U.S. military and police officials said.

    The first attack happened when a suicide bomber with explosives hidden beneath watermelons in a pickup truck slammed into a two-story police station near a market at a police headquarters, killing 10 policemen and two civilians and wounding eight more, U.S. Army Capt. Mark Walter said.

    Less than two hours later, a suicide bomber blew himself up in a parking lot outside an Iraqi army base, killing 16 and wounding seven more, Walter said. Almost all of the victims were civilian workers arriving at the site, he said.

    A third attacker strapped with a belt of explosives walked into Mosul Jumhouri Teaching Hospital and blew himself up in a room for police officers guarding the facility, killing five policemen and wounding 12 others, police Brig. Gen. Wathiq Mohammed Tahr said.

    Mosul, the country's third-largest city, is 225 miles northwest of Baghdad and considered an insurgent stronghold. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's al Qaeda in Iraq claimed responsibility for the attacks. The claim, made on an Internet site used by militants, could not be verified.

  • At least 14 people were killed in attacks elsewhere in Iraq, including a U.S. soldier whose convoy was hit by a roadside bomb in Baghdad and six Iraqi soldiers who were gunned down outside their base north of the capital. Gunmen also killed police Col. Riyad Abdul Karim, an assistant district of emergency services, in Baghdad. Al Qaeda in Iraq claimed responsibility.
  • In Washington, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld warned that defeating the insurgents may take as long as 12 years and Iraq's own security forces will have to finish the job.
  • President Bush will deliver an address to the nation from Ft. Bragg, N.C., Tuesday at 8 p.m. Mr. Bush will be speaking to troops about the importance of completing the mission in Iraq, the White House said.

    Meanwhile, Rumsfeld downplayed the significance of the Sunday Times' report on the meetings with insurgents.

    "We see the government of Iraq is sovereign. They're the ones that are reaching out to the people who are not supporting the government," Rumsfeld said on "Meet the Press."

    "They're not going to try to bring in the people with blood on their hands, for sure, but they're certainly reaching out continuously, and we help to facilitate those from time to time."