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Americans Ambushed In Iraq

Guerrillas ambushed two U.S. military convoys with remote-controlled bombs in separate attacks Thursday, wounding two Americans and sparking a heavy gunbattle in which a 20-year-old man was shot in the chest and two trucks were destroyed.

In the nearby town of Fallujah, witnesses said an American patrol opened fire on guests at a wedding, killing a 14-year-old boy and wounding six people, after mistaking celebratory gunfire for an attack.

The violence heightened tensions in the ``Sunni Triangle,'' a belt of central Iraq that has been the heart of resistance against the American-led occupation. U.S. soldiers in the region are extremely jumpy, caught in what has become a guerrilla war.

The ambushes took place in Khaldiyah a town whose police chief, Col. Khedeir Mekhalef Ali, was assassinated Monday in a brazen shooting, the latest attack on Iraqis working with coalition forces. Ali was shot at a traffic circle on the outskirts of nearby Fallujah as he was returning to his home there.

In other developments:

  • President Bush gave his administration's firmest assertion yet that there is no proven link between Saddam Hussein and Sept. 11. Critics have said the administration has tried to create the impression of Saddam's involvement in the attacks, without directly making such a claim, in order to boost public support for the war against Iraq.
  • A fire is raging on an oil pipeline in northern Iraq. U.S. military officials say it was triggered by an explosion along a pipeline carrying crude from the oil fields near Kirkuk to Iraq's largest refinery at Beiji, more than 130 miles north of Baghdad. The military said the cause of the fire was not yet known.
  • Germany's U.N. ambassador said nobody on the Security Council has ever threatened to veto a new Iraq resolution, and a French diplomat stressed that Paris has never had any intention of opposing the U.S. proposal.
  • Former chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix says the U.S.-led coalition could have avoided going to war with Iraq last May. Blix tells the BBC that although there was a risk Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, the coalition should have allowed U.N. weapons inspectors to do their job a little longer.
  • Neighbors said that a 14-year-old boy was killed and six people were wounded after people at a wedding fired guns into the air to celebrate and a passing U.S. military patrol opened fire, believing it was under attack.
  • In Baghdad, police backed by U.S. soldiers and helicopters sealed a large part of the center of the city Thursday in a raid to capture car thieves. Two men were arrested at an auto repair shop on suspicion of having stolen a police vehicle.
  • Officials say the U.S. soldiers who accidentally killed eight Iraqi policemen and a Jordanian guard in Fallujah were only in the city for a day before the incident occurred. U.S. and Iraqi officials indicate confusion and inexperience may have contributed to the killings.
  • In an audiotape broadcast Wednesday by Arab satellite broadcaster al-Arabiya, a speaker purporting to be Saddam Hussein urged Iraqis to escalate attacks on Americans and called on U.S. and other coalition forces to leave the country "as soon as possible and without any conditions."

    In the alleged Saddam tape, the speaker, who sounded like the ousted Iraqi leader and appeared tired, also urged America's international partners not to "fall prey in the traps of American foreign policy" and reject any plan for Iraq's future which legitimizes military occupation.

    He called on coalition leaders "to withdraw your armies as soon as possible and without any conditions, because there is no reason for further losses that will be disastrous for America if your officials … continue their aggression."

    At the United Nations, the United States is seeking Security Council backing for a resolution that would clear the way for additional peacekeeping troops and money to finance Iraq's reconstruction from other countries. The Bush administration has agreed to a vital U.N. role in Iraq.

    Debate over the U.S. draft resolution has focused on the future U.N. role in Iraq and restoring the country's sovereignty. Russia and China also want a quick restoration of Iraq's sovereignty, though perhaps not as fast as the French proposal.

    French President Jacques Chirac said Thursday he would like to see a transfer of power in Iraq in a matter of "months," as he and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder renewed their push for a quick return to sovereignty.

    Mr. Bush, speaking to reporters after meeting with lawmakers negotiating energy legislation on Wednesday, stressed that Iraq needs time to develop a constitution and hold free elections. One of the main elements of the U.S. position is that Iraqis should be in control when they take over their country.

    "The key is to make sure that the political situation in Iraq evolves in a way that will lead to a free society," the president said. "Then we deal with the sovereignty issue."

    Other officials stressed that the administration also will not budge on another main point: the United Nations shall not have the leading role in postwar Iraq.

    At the same time, the officials said the resolution was being reworked to be more specific about a U.N. role. A senior administration official said the United Nations would be offered a larger political and economic role as well as that of coordinator of food and other humanitarian programs.

    Mr. Bush indicated the United States is not yet ready to present a revised resolution to other governments on the U.N. Security Council but is trying to accommodate some allies' demands for bigger roles in Iraq's reconstruction for themselves and the United Nations. "We're still talking about it," he said.

    The administration had hoped to have the resolution adopted by the time of Bush's scheduled speech Tuesday to the U.N. General Assembly in New York. White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Wednesday the United States will take its revisions to its allies soon, a comment that makes that outcome appear unlikely.

    A report released in Washington this week estimated that rebuilding an army in Iraq of 30,000 to 40,000 soldiers would cost about $2 billion next year.