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U.S. Denies Iraq Crash Claim

The U.S. military said Tuesday that none of its helicopters had crashed after searching for a downed aircraft following a report by an Iraqi army soldier that one went down northeast of Baghdad.

The report of a downed helicopter was forwarded to U.S. officials after an Iraqi soldier said he saw ground fire take down an American aircraft, according to the joint coordination center of the Diyala provincial police.

Iraqi police said and sources previously reported that a U.S. helicopter crashed northeast of Baghdad, killing the two Americans aboard.

But Maj. Steve Warren, a spokesman for the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, said an Iraqi soldier saw a helicopter flying close to the ground and mistakenly thought it had crashed.

"There was no helicopter crash," Warren said.

The military dispatched helicopters and ground crews to search the area but found nothing, Warren said.

The 101st Combat Aviation Brigade could account for all of its aircraft, said Lt. Col. Ed Loomis. The Diyala police later said an Iraqi soldier reported the downed helicopter and that U.S. forces were alerted.

In related developments:

  • U.S. aircraft bombed a structure that three suspected insurgents were hiding in, U.S. officials said Tuesday, and Iraqi police said seven people were killed. The U.S. military said an unmanned aircraft spotted three individuals planting a roadside bomb Monday night near Beiji, 155 miles north of Baghdad, and that Navy F-14s were called in. The three individuals were followed by air to a nearby building. "The individuals were assessed as posing a threat," the military said. Seven people were killed and four were wounded, Iraqi police Capt. Arkan Jassim said.
  • The sister of Iraq's Interior Minister was kidnapped in Baghdad Tuesday by gunmen who killed one of her bodyguards and seriously injured another, an Interior Ministry official said. Bayan Jabr's sister was taken the Baghdad's northeastern neighborhood of Qadissiya in the afternoon, said Adnan Thabet Commander of the Interior Ministry's special forces. He did not provide any further details about the incident or the minister's sister including her name and age.
  • Hundreds of Iraqi pilgrims are stuck at Baghdad airport having been refused permission to enter Saudi Arabia to perform the annual Hajj or pilgrimage to Mecca. Many said they have now spent three days at the airport, despite having the correct travel documents. One pilgrim called on Iraq's leaders to resolve the situation. "What have we done wrong?" asked another, weeping with frustration.
  • Saddam Hussein has told his lawyers if he is sentenced to death he wants his life to be ended by firing squad, not hung. Hussein is currently on trial for murder and could be sentenced to death if convicted. His lawyers say because Hussein maintains he is still commander in chief of Iraq's armed forces, a firing squad is "the right way" to execute a military leader.
  • Iraq's crude oil exports were 4.7 percent lower in 2005 than in 2004, an oil official said Tuesday, underscoring the difficulties Iraq has had in returning its oil production to pre-war levels. A total of 508 million barrels were exported in 2005, or 1.41 million barrels a day, an oil official told Dow Jones newswires on condition of anonymity because of threats to his security.
  • Tuesday, gunmen attacked a car carrying construction workers in western Baghdad, killing three and wounding two, police Capt. Qasim Hussein said. Gunmen in the same neighborhood fired on a car carrying civilians, killing two and wounding three, according to police 1st Lt. Thair Mahmoud.
  • Final results from last month's parliamentary elections might not be announced for two more weeks, an official said Tuesday, a day after Iraq's main Sunni Arab group agreed on broad outlines for a coalition government.

    The Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq has completed its investigation of almost 2,000 election complaints and will announce the findings Wednesday, commission member Hussein Hindawi told The Associated Press.

    But the commission won't announce final election results until an international team finishes its work, meaning results might not be ready for two weeks, said commission member Safwat Rashid. Officials previously said final results of the Dec. 15 vote would be announced in early January.

    The commission investigated 1,980 complaints, including 50 that were considered serious enough to alter results in some districts, an election official said.

    The international team, which began its work Monday, agreed to review Iraq's elections after protests by Sunni Arab and secular Shiite groups that the polls were tainted with fraud.

    Preliminary results give the governing Shiite religious bloc, the United Iraqi Alliance, a big lead but one that still would require forming a coalition with other groups.

    As part of the bargaining for a new coalition government, President Jalal Talabani assured Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari that his fellow Kurds would not object if the United Iraqi Alliance — the Shiite religious bloc that won the most votes in the election — again nominates him for the post of prime minister.

    But it was the agreement struck by Kurdistan regional President Massoud Barzani and representatives of the main Sunni Arab Iraqi Accordance Front that opened the way for a new broad-based government. It also drew the ire of minority parties and secular groups.

    "They will be part of a future government," said Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurd who sat in on the meetings.

    Sunni Arabs and secular parties, such as the one headed by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, a Shiite, have complained the elections were tainted by fraud and intimidation. They have demanded a new vote in some provinces, including Baghdad.

    With the agreement, the Accordance Front seems to have broken a pact to only discuss those complaints during their meetings with the Kurds. Opposition groups are waiting for international monitors to assess the elections. The U.N. has called the vote credible.

    The International Mission for Iraqi Elections said it helped monitor the elections in Baghdad and was assisted by monitors from countries of the European Union.

    Hindawi said some members of the international team had begun working.

    Rashid said that although his panel was separate from the international monitoring team, it would take into consideration the international team's findings before announcing results. "If they work hard, they might finish within a week," he said.

    It took about two weeks to announce final results from interim parliamentary elections on Jan. 30, 2005.