Baghdad (AFP) July 29, 2010
Sixteen people, including nine security force members, were killed and 14 wounded on Thursday in a string of attacks in the Iraqi capital's Sunni district of Al-Adhamiyah, the interior ministry said.
Assailants set ablaze the bodies of three soldiers in Al-Adhamiyah after shooting them dead, the ministry said.
Three homemade bomb attacks on different routes to the scene of the shooting killed 13 more people, including three soldiers and three policemen, and wounded 14, among them seven police and two civil defence members, it said.
The ministry said the attacks all took place within a 15-minute time frame.
Gunmen raised Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia's black flag in a street in the middle of Al-Adhamiyah following the attacks, an Iraqi army officer and eyewitnesses said.
Also on Thursday, three soldiers were killed and 12 wounded when an insurgent detonated a car bomb near an army base in Al-Sharqat, north of Baghdad in Salaheddin province, a police officer said.
And in the former rebel bastion of Fallujah, west of the capital, one soldier was killed and five people wounded, including three soldiers, by a bomb on a parked motorcycle near an army checkpoint, an army officer said.
He said five people were wounded, including three policemen, by a roadside bomb targeting another checkpoint in Fallujah.
And a sticky bomb targeted the convoy of a police chief from Al-Qayar, 50 kilometres from the northern city of Mosul, killing a policeman and wounding two others, Mosul police said.
Mosul has remained a hotbed of insurgent activity even as levels of violence have decreased in other areas of Iraq.
US and Iraqi officials have warned of the dangers of an upsurge in violence as negotiations on forming a new governing coalition drag on, more than four months after the country held a parliamentary election.
Meanwhile, Al-Qaeda's front group in Iraq said it carried out this week's car bomb attack on Saudi-funded Al-Arabiya television's offices in Baghdad that killed four people.
The Islamic State of Iraq "claimed responsibility for the July 26th suicide bombing that struck the offices of Al-Arabiya Television in Baghdad," the SITE monitoring group said, citing a statement on jihadist web forums.
Zebari said the government had begun to "drift" and had consequently not taken strategic decisions, adding that he had avoided several foreign visits because he could not explain to other countries why no new government has yet been formed in Baghdad.
"It's embarrassing, to be honest with you, for me, and I have avoided a number of foreign visits," Zebari said in his office in the newly refurbished foreign ministry building in central Baghdad.
Ex-premier Iyad Allawi's Iraqiya bloc finished first in the March 7 polls with 91 seats in the 325-member parliament, with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's State of Law alliance winning 89.
Both, however, fell short of a parliamentary majority, and negotiations over assembling a coalition with other parties appear to have stalled.
"There is nothing you can say or explain, although it is a difficult path -- this is a transitional period, it is difficult to explain to your foreign audience" why no government has yet formed, Zebari said.
He said he found it difficult to detail "why all these delays, why all this bickering ... why your leaders cannot get rid of their self-interest, selfishness, look at the general interest of the country and so on."
"Britain had some problem, they solved it in five days, for instance," he added, referring to coalition negotiations in Britain following its May general election which resulted in no conclusive victor.
He insisted, however, that "a deep thinker" would realise Iraq's long period of post-election negotiations were not out of the ordinary, referring to the five months between its last parliamentary elections in 2005 and a government eventually forming.
"We must stop this drift. The government is working, it is functioning. It is not purely a caretaker government. At the same time, it doesn't take serious strategic decisions -- major agreements, major contracting, war and peace."
Asked whether many such decisions had been taken since the start of the year, he replied simply: "No."
A parliamentary session scheduled for Tuesday, only the second since the elections, was postponed indefinitely, with representatives of the various parties noting that no agreement had been reached.
Zebari said no government would form before the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which begins in mid-August, and would only say "hopefully" when asked if one would be in place by October.
"But if September and October come and there is no government, it will be bad for everybody," he said.
"You have (the) 31st of August, the date of the withdrawal (of US combat troops from Iraq). Until then, if you don't have a government, it doesn't look good, you know?"
Some 65,000 US troops are currently stationed in Iraq, with that number set to drop to 50,000 by the end of August, when all American combat troops are set to leave.
Under the terms of a US-Iraqi agreement, all American soldiers will leave the country by the end of 2011.
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Biden: US troops halted 'chaos' and 'destruction' in Iraq
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US Vice President Joe Biden declared Wednesday that anti-US forces who wanted to consign Iraq to "chaos and destruction" had failed, as he welcomed home a much decorated military unit. Biden also savored the fact that in one month, US combat operations will end, more than seven years after the US invasion to topple Saddam Hussein, in line with a campaign promise of President Barack Obama. ... read more
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