By: Robert H. Reid, The Associated Press
Sunday 10 August 2008
Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told reporters that American and Iraqi negotiators were "very close" to reaching a long-term security agreement that will set the rules for U.S. troops in Iraq after the U.N. mandate expires at the end of the year.
Zebari said the Iraqis were insisting that the agreement include a "very clear timeline" for the withdrawal of U.S.-led forces, but he refused to talk about specific dates.
"We have said that this is a condition-driven process," he added, suggesting that the departure schedule could be modified if the security situation changed.
But Zebari made clear that the Iraqis would not accept a deal that lacks a timeline for the end of the
"No, no definitely there has to be a very clear timeline," Zebari replied when asked if the Iraqis would accept an agreement that did not mention dates.
Differences over a withdrawal timetable have become one of the most contentious issues remaining in the talks, which began early this year.
President Bush has steadfastly refused to accept any timetable for bringing
Last week, two senior Iraqi officials told The Associated Press that American negotiators had agreement to a formula which would remove
The last American support troops would leave about three years later, the Iraqis said.
American officials have been less optimistic because of major differences on key issues including who can authorize
The White House said discussions continued on a bilateral agreement and said any timeframe discussed was due to major improvements in security over the past year.
"We are only now able to discuss conditions-based time horizons because security has improved so much. This would not have been possible 18 months ago," White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said Sunday. "We all look forward to the day when Iraqi security forces take the lead on more combat missions, allowing
But attacks continue, raising concern that the militants are trying to regroup.
The suicide bomber struck Sunday afternoon as
Four Iraqi civilians were killed along with the American soldier, military spokesman Lt. Col. Steve Stover said. Two American soldiers and an Iraqi interpreter were among 24 people wounded.
No group claimed responsibility for the blast but suicide bombings are the signature attack of al-Qaida in
"This was a heinous attack by al-Qaida in
Elsewhere, a car bomb exploded outside the Kurdish security department in Khanaqin, 90 miles northeast of
First reports indicated it was a suicide attack. But the
Ethnic tensions have been rising in northern
Sawarah Ghalib, 25, who was wounded in the blast, said he believed military operations under way south of the city in Diyala province had pushed insurgents into the Khanaqin area.
"I did not expect that a terrorist attack to take place in our secure town," Ghalib said from his bed in the Khanaqin hospital. "Al-Qaida is to blame for this attack. Operations in Diyala have pushed them here."
The deadliest blast occurred about 8:15 a.m. in a crowded area where people wait for buses in the capital's mainly Shiite southeastern district of Kamaliya. Four people were killed, including a woman and her brother, and 11 others wounded, according to police.
A car bomb later exploded as an Iraqi army patrol transporting money to a state-run bank passed by in Baghdad's central Khillani square, killing two people including an Iraqi soldier and wounding nine other people, a police officer said.
Another Iraqi soldier was killed and five were wounded by a car bomb in Salman Pak, about 15 miles south of
Associated Press writers Hamza Hendawi, Kim Gamel and Sameer N. Yacoub in
Sunday 10 August 2008
The soldier died along with four Iraqis in a calculated, two-prong attack on
The attack began when a bomb exploded around 2 p.m. at a vacant house in Tarmiya, a largely Sunni district and once a major stronghold of Al Qaeda in
A local security official said the American tally of five dead was too low. He said 10 Iraqis - three members of the Awakening Council, a citizens patrol, and seven others - were killed and 20 others wounded. The military said two American soldiers were wounded.
While the death toll nationwide on Sunday was not as high as in some recent outbursts of violence, the number of attacks was higher than usual.
Lt. Col. Steve Stover, an American military spokesman in
Hailing the improved security, Iraqi officials presided Sunday over the dedication of a newly renovated Parliament building outside the heavily fortified Green Zone. The thump of an explosion, however, could be heard as the ceremony was starting.
Several Interior Ministry officials theorized that some of the attacks - at least six occurred in
Lawmakers recessed last week without passing the legislation. They were stymied by disagreements among Kurds, Arabs and Turkmens about the status of the ethnically mixed northern city of
"When there is fighting between politicians in Parliament, there are many explosions in the street," said a high-ranking officer in the Iraqi security forces who insisted on not being named for reasons of safety.
By midday, five roadside bombs had detonated around
A bomb hidden in a pile of garbage exploded around 8:30 a.m. in the Shiite neighborhood of Kamaliya, in eastern
Iraqi officials continued to say on Sunday that a security agreement with the
"The Iraqi side would like to say that forces should withdraw in the middle of 2010, while the American side says the forces should not leave until December 2011," said Khalil al-Azawy, an adviser to Tariq al-Hashimi, one of
Bush administration officials have not publicly mentioned specific dates for a withdrawal of combat troops, though President Bush has agreed to a "general time horizon."
Even after a draft of the agreement is approved by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, said Sami al-Askari, an Iraqi lawmaker close to him, it must be authorized by the Presidency Council, comprising the president and the two vice presidents, and, more important, by the 19-member national security council.
At the dedication of the renovated Parliament building, Mr. Maliki described the move beyond the Green Zone as a sign of success by Iraqi security forces. Lawmakers are scheduled to occupy the building, used by Parliament during the Saddam Hussein era, in early September.
Not everyone feels as confident as Mr. Maliki does.
"Honestly speaking, there is some resentment among the Parliament members about the new change," Ibrahim Thanoon, a Sunni lawmaker, said in a telephone interview.
"This new location will expose us to assassination by I.E.D.'s or gunfire."
Ali Hameed and Mohammed Hussein contributed reporting from
Iraqis suspend military operations in Diyala
By BUSHRA JUHI, Associated Press Writer
11 Aug 2008
In the most dramatic attack, a female suicide bomber struck a market checkpoint in the provincial capital of Baqouba, killing at least one policeman and wounding 14 other people, including nine officers, officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to media.
The woman detonated explosives hidden under her all-encompassing traditional Islamic black robe as she approached the checkpoint manned by Iraqi police at the central market, witnesses said.
The blast sent black smoke billowing into the sky. Iraqi security forces began shooting into the air to clear the area while shoppers and shop owners began shouting and running from the site.
Another bomb exploded in the Wijaihiyah area, about 12 miles east of Baqouba, killing two women and wounding four people, including a child, according to the Diyala security operations center.
Sporadic attacks have continued in Diyala — including several carried out by women — despite a new U.S.-Iraqi military operation launched last month in the latest government crackdown against suspected insurgent hideouts in the area.
The Iraqi Defense Ministry said Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has ordered the Diyala military operations to be suspended for a week starting Monday "to give gunmen a chance to surrender."
The prime minister's office has announced an amnesty offer and unspecified monetary rewards for those who hand over "heavy and medium weapons, roadside bombs, rifles or any other kind of explosives," according to a statement.
Al-Maliki has made amnesty offers during similar operations against Sunni and Shiite extremists in Baghdad's Sadr City district, Mosul and the southern cities of Basra and Amarah, but they have had limited effect.
Violence also struck the capital Monday.
A bomb stuck under a car exploded in eastern
An Iraqi police official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of security concerns, said 23 Iraqis were killed, including six members of a U.S.-allied Sunni group, three Iraqi security forces and 14 civilians. The conflicting casualty tolls couldn't be reconciled.
The female suicide bomber struck as
Lt. Col. Steve Stover, a spokesman for
In response, the
Associated Press writer Hamid Ahmed contributed to this report.