Mon, Aug 08, 2005 - Page 7 News List

Iraqi MPs meet amid killings in the north

WRITING THE FUTURE Iraqi politicians were to hold talks last night on the constitution, while 12 Iraqis and two US soldiers died in attacks in the north

AFP , BAGHDAD

A Muslim cleric and an Iraqi man walk past posters promoting the new constitution, which is in the process of being drafted, yesterday in Baghdad. Iraq's top political leaders were to meet yesterday in an attempt to break the deadlock on a new draft constitution, as the Kurds vowed to stand firm on their demands for full autonomy.

PHOTO: AFP

Iraq's political leaders were set to meet yesterday to negotiate on issues holding up the completion of the country's constitution, as at least 12 Iraqis were killed in attacks.

Seven Iraqi soldiers were killed and 17 wounded when a suicide bomber blew up a truck in front of an Iraqi army headquarters in central Tikrit, 180km north of Baghdad, an Iraqi army officer said.

Three other Iraqi soldiers were killed when gunmen attacked their patrol in south Baghdad, while two other people working in the oil ministry were also shot dead by gunmen in southeast Baghdad.

Two US soldiers were also reported killed in a bomb explosion near Samarra, north of Baghdad, on Saturday, the US military announced yesterday, bringing the total US military personnel casualties since the March 2003 invasion to 1,823 according to an AFP tally based on Pentagon figures.

The US death toll includes 14 US marines killed in a single roadside bombing on Wednesday in the western town of Haditha, in the Euphrates valley. It was one of the deadliest single attacks since the invasion.

US marine and Iraqi forces continued operations in same area, and reported discovering weapons and ammunition -- including 155mm artillery rounds, propane gas and several assault rifles -- hidden in small riverside caves. Twenty-four "suspected terrorists" were detained, the military said.

With support falling in the US the New York Times reported that the top US commander in the Middle East, General John Abizaid, outlined a plan in a classified briefing to reduce US forces in Iraq by 20,000 to 30,000 troops by next spring, from the present 138,000.

The reductions -- as General George Casey, the top US general in Iraq, said last week -- depend on Iraq's political process remaining on schedule and strengthening of Iraqi forces.

Key to the US withdrawal is the country's post-Saddam Hussein constitution that is expected to be ready by Aug. 15.

Leading Iraqi members of parliament (MPs) were set to meet at 7pm in Baghdad to iron out the thorny issues dogging the constitution, a member of the constitutional drafting committee, Mahmud Osman, said.

Leaders at the meeting include President Jalal Talabani, the head of the conservative Shiite Arab majority in parliament, Abdel Aziz Hakim, and Sunni Vice President Ghazi Al Yawar, as well as the president of the semi-autonomous northern Kurdish region, Massoud Barzani.

Issues that dog the constitution range from the name of the country to the role of religion in government.

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