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Car Bomb Explodes Near U.N. in Iraq

Car Bomb Explodes Near U.N. in Iraq

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- A car bomber killed an Iraqi policeman and himself outside the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad on Monday, a month after a deadly bombing there.

The attack, which came as the United Nations considers expanding its role in Iraq, also injured 19 people, including two Iraqi U.N. workers.

The blast occurred at the entrance to a parking lot next to the U.N. compound at the Canal Hotel, scene of a car bombing last month that killed about 20 people, including the U.N.'s top envoy.

The blast was heard throughout the city and hurled the hood of the car some 200 yards. The detached arm of one victim lay more than 100 yards away.

"It was as if I was being pushed and thrown three meters from where I was standing," said a passerby, Wissam Majid, who was lightly injured. "I saw fire and smoke. I started running away and then I lost consciousness."

A U.N. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the bomber wore an explosives belt in addition to the 50-pound bomb in the car.

"This incident today once again underlines that Iraq remains a war zone and a high risk environment, particularly for those working to improve the lives of the Iraqi people," Kevin Kennedy, the top U.N. official in Baghdad, said in a statement.

Master Sgt. Hassan al-Saadi, among the first on the scene after the explosion, said he was told by injured policemen that a gray 1995 Opel with Baghdad license plates had approached the entrance to the parking lot.

"A guard went to search the car, opened the trunk and the car exploded, killing him and the driver. When I arrived, there was fire and smoke, even the guard's body was ablaze," he said.

Capt. Sean Kirley of the U.S. 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment said the Iraq police had a warning of the attack shortly before it happened. He would not elaborate.

"It appeared to have been a suicide bombing. The bomber drove up and was engaged by an Iraqi security individual just before the checkpoint" at the lot entrance, Kirley said at the scene.

Kirley said the attack showed security around the compound was working, since the bomber did not enter the complex. He said he didn't know whether any U.S. troops were near the scene at the time, but none was wounded.

Authorities identified the slain policeman as 23-year-old Salam Mohammed.

Nineteen people were injured and six people were unaccounted for, said another U.N. official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

United Nations staff have continued to work in undamaged offices at the hotel complex since the Aug. 19 bombing.

Monday's blast took place one day before President Bush is to address the U.N. General Assembly. He is expected to offer an expanded role in rebuilding Iraq, a condition set by many nations for contributing peacekeepers and money to the reconstruction effort.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan has made clear he wants assurances of security for U.N. personnel in Baghdad along with any expanded role.

The United Nations curtailed its efforts in Iraq after the Aug. 19 bombing. At the time of the attack, U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said there were about 300 international staff in Baghdad and more than 300 elsewhere in Iraq. These numbers are thought to have now been dramatically reduced.

After the bombing, about 20 U.S. military vehicles could be seen swarming around the compound, and the area in northeastern Baghdad was sealed off by Iraqi police.

The bomb exploded two days after an assassination attempt against Aquila al-Hashimi, one of three women on the Iraqi Governing Council and a leading candidate to become Iraq's U.N. ambassador if the interim government wins approval to take the country's U.N. seat.

She was reported to be improving Monday, two days after the attack, which occurred as she was riding in a car near her home in western Baghdad. The Governing Council president, Ahmad Chalabi, blamed remnants of the regime of Saddam Hussein, whose government was toppled by U.S.-led forces in April.

Since Bush declared an end to major combat operations on May 1, more than 160 American soldiers have been killed. More than 300 U.S. soldiers have died in Iraq since the U.S.-led coalition launched military operations March 20.

The ongoing violence has raised questions about American stewardship of the country and has led to calls for an expanded role for the United Nations in post-Saddam Iraq.

On Sunday, Bush said he's not sure the United States will have to yield a significantly larger role to the United Nations to make way for a new resolution on Iraq. He continued to insist on an orderly transfer of authority to the Iraqis rather than the quick action demanded by France.

In an exclusive interview with Fox News' Brit Hume, Bush said he will declare in his speech Tuesday at the U.N. General Assembly that he "made the right decision and the others that joined us made the right decision" to invade Iraq.

But the president said he will ask other nations to do more to help stabilize Iraq.

"We would like a larger role for member states of the United Nations to participate in Iraq," Bush said in the interview to be aired Monday night. "I mean, after all, we've got member states now, Great Britain and Poland, leading multinational divisions to help make the country more secure."

Asked if he was willing for the United Nations to play a larger role in the political developments in Iraq to get a new resolution, Bush responded, "I'm not so sure we have to, for starters."

But he said he did think it would be helpful to get U.N. help in writing a constitution for Iraq.

"I mean, they're good at that," he said. "Or, perhaps when an election starts, they'll oversee the election. That would be deemed a larger role."

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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