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29 Iraqis Killed In Baghdad Attacks

An explosion outside an army recruiting center in Baghdad killed at least 16 Iraqis on Monday as lawmakers struggled to break a deadlock over legislation Sunni Arabs fear will split the country into three pieces.

In all, violence around the country killed at least 29 Iraqis, 24 of them in the capital. Five bodies also turned up on city streets and in the Tigris River running through the capital.

A U.S. soldier was killed by small-arms fire after his patrol came under attack Sunday north of Baghdad, the U.S. military command said.

In Monday's deadliest attack, a minibus loaded with explosives blew up near the northern gate of the al-Muthana recruiting center in central Baghdad, killing at least 16 Iraqis and wounding seven, Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Ibrahim al-Obeidi said.

In other developments:

  • Government attorneys said Monday that U.S. courts have no authority to stop the military from transferring an American citizen to an Iraqi court to face charges he supported terrorists and insurgents. It's the latest legal challenge to the Bush administration's authority to keep terrorism cases, even those involving U.S. citizens, out of American courts. Shawqi Omar, a citizen of both Jordan and the United States who once served in the Minnesota National Guard, was captured in Iraq in 2004.
  • U.S. military officials are explaining how they came up with last month's huge drop in Baghdad murders. They say they only counted victims of drive-by shootings, torture and execution. They left out those killed by suicide bombings, other explosions, rockets and mortars. The decision to include only victims of drive-by shootings and those killed by torture and executions allowed U.S. officials to argue that a security crackdown led by U.S. forces had cut the capital's murder rate in half.
  • Hearing Iraq described as "a mess" and a place where the U.S. "screwed up," may not be the kind of comments expected of a Republican. But those are the words being used by Senator Lindsey Graham, a GOP lawmaker from South Carolina. Speaking at the College of Charleston, Graham also says the military "underestimated how hard it would be" in Iraq.
  • The chief of intelligence for the Marine Corps in Iraq recently filed an unusually downbeat secret report, reports The Washington Post. It concludes that the prospects for securing that country's western Anbar province are dim and that there is almost nothing the U.S. military can do to improve the political and social situation there, said several military officers and intelligence officials familiar with its contents. "We haven't been defeated militarily but we have been defeated politically — and that's where wars are won and lost," one Army official said.
  • A 56-year-old Kurdish-American woman told of seeing people sickened and dying during an alleged chemical attack carried out by Saddam Hussein's forces, as the genocide trial of the ex-president resumed Monday after nearly a three-week break.
  • Iraq will bolster its military presence in the oil-rich north of the country, where saboteurs and insurgents repeatedly have targeted workers, pipelines and facilities, the Iraqi oil minister said Monday. "We already have a military presence there and we're going to reinforce it," Hussain al-Shahristani told reporters at a meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.
  • A boycott by several political groups caused parliament to again put off a rancorous debate on a federalism bill that Sunni Arabs fear will split Iraq apart and fuel sectarian bloodshed.
  • Gunmen killed at least nine people in separate attacks overnight and Monday morning in northern Iraq and in the capital, authorities said. They included four oil company employees ambushed on a bus and killed by gunmen near Beiji, site of Iraq biggest refinery.

    Iraq's oil infrastructure is frequently targeted by insurgents who blow up pipelines and attack oil workers. The country has struggled to resume oil production to prewar levels of about 2.5 million to 3 million barrels a day.

    Iraq's oil minister, Hussain al-Shahristani, said the government will increase security.

    "We already have a military presence there and we're going to reinforce it," al-Shahristani told reporters in Vienna at a meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

    Meanwhile, the leader of the largest Sunni Arab group in parliament, Adnan al-Dulaimi, said political parties opposed to a federalism bill were trying to work together to prevent it from being implemented without changes.

    One of the amendments Sunnis are seeking would prevent the weakening of Iraq's central government in favor of powerful autonomous regions. Both the north and south are rich in oil, and Sunnis fear they will end up squeezed into Baghdad and Iraq's western provinces, which have no natural resources.

    "We are trying to calm the situation and we had our first meeting with the Kurds today to find a common ground," al-Dulaimi, who heads the Iraqi Accordance Front, told The Associated Press.

    The federalism bill submitted to parliament last week by the largest Shiite bloc, the United Iraqi Alliance, calls for a three-part federation. It would create a separate autonomous state in the predominantly Shiite south much like the zone run by Kurds in the north.

    Sunni Arabs fear this will split Iraq apart and fuel sectarian bloodshed.

    Al-Dulaimi's bloc, along with a smaller Sunni Arab group, two Shiite groupings, and a secular party forced parliament on Sunday to postpone debate on the bill for the second time.

    "We do believe that we have to reach an agreement with the other blocs which support our opinion in order to avoid any division among big blocs," he said. "That is why we call for dialogue and national reconciliation. By dialogue we can settle disputes, but with bloodshed we will increase problems."

    He said parliament should first meet a key Sunni Arab demand to set up a committee to amend the constitution, approved by referendum last October, before discussing any other legislation relating to Iraq's new charter.

    Objections from Sunni Arabs and an apparent split among Shiites led leaders to delay the debate until Sept. 19. A previous attempt to discuss the bill Thursday set off acrimonious squabbling that led parliament speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani to recess that session.

    "The legal and the provinces committees will meet together to draft a joint bill that will be submitted for a first reading on Sept. 19," al-Mashhadani said after a parliament session Monday.

    He said there was a preliminary agreement that the legislation, even if adopted, would not lead automatically to a federal state.

    "If we pass a resolution ... it doesn't mean the actual implementation of federalism," he said.

    Although the idea of federalism is enshrined in the new Iraqi constitution, and there is already an autonomous Kurdish region in the north, special legislation and a referendum would be needed to turn Iraq into a full federation.

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