At least seven people were killed in a mortar attack near a Baghdad market yesterday as President Jalal Talabani announced he would soon summon parliament to its first session since December elections.
Another 19 people were wounded in the attack which destroyed a minibus at a bus stop opposite a market in the southern Zafaraniya neighborhood.
Elsewhere in the capital, three people were wounded, including two police commandos, when a roadside bomb exploded near a patrol in the southern district of Dura. Two more people were hurt when another bomb hit a trailer truck in south Baghdad.
A recent upsurge in insurgent attacks, along with a bloody outbreak of sectarian violence which has left several hundred dead, has further complicated efforts to form a broad-based government, more than two months after general elections.
"The government of national unity must be formed to bring the country together," the head of US Central Command, General John Abizaid, said yesterday after talks with Talabani.
The Iraqi president announced that the three-man presidency would summon MPs today to an inaugural session sometime late next week to set the ball rolling in forming a new government.
Abizaid pledged that Iraqi and coalition forces would work together to ensure that insurgents linked to al-Qaeda frontman Abu Musab al-Zarqawi did not destabilize the country.
US forces have accused Zarqawi of seeking to foment a sectarian civil war between the newly empowered Shiite majority and the ousted Sunni Arab elite.
Over the past 10 days Iraq has been hit by the deadliest outbreak of communal violence since the 2003 invasion, sparked by the bombing of a revered Shiite shrine in Samarra, north of Baghdad.
Fearing the violence could spiral into full-scale civil war, the government has multiplied patrols and checkpoints, lengthening the night-time curfew and banning driving in the capital on Fridays, the Muslim day of rest.
Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari has called on prayer leaders to control their flocks and not heighten tensions with inflammatory rhetoric in their sermons.
Efforts to set up a new governing coalition have been complicated by a campaign by Sunni Arab and Kurdish politicians to force the dominant Shiite-based United Islamic Alliance to ditch Jaafari as prime minister.
US forces consider it essential to involve the Sunnis in a broad-based coalition to draw the sting from the insurgency raging in Sunni areas and pave the way for the withdrawal of coalition troops.
Meanwhile, a Shiite lawmaker was seriously wounded yesterday when gunmen fired on his car near Iraq's second city of Basra, police said. One of his aides was killed and two bodyguards injured in the attack, police Captain Mushtaq Kadhim said. Gunmen in two speeding cars chased down Qasim Attiyah al-Jbouri's two-vehicle convoy on a road just north of Basra and opened fire, he said.