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Roadside Bomb Kills U.S. Soldier

Roadside Bomb Kills U.S. Soldier

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- A roadside bomb killed an American soldier and wounded three others Saturday in the second fatal attack on U.S. troops in the capital in as many days. Iraq's new leader called for a halt to attacks on foreign troops, saying their rapid withdrawal would be a "major disaster."

In the northern city of Mosul, gunmen killed the brother of the man who told American forces where to find Saddam Hussein's sons, killed by U.S. troops in July.

The eastern Baghdad ambush of the Army convoy was one of a series of attacks against both the U.S. occupation force and Iraqis who work with them as the June 30 transfer of sovereignty to a new, U.S.-backed Iraqi administration draws near.

An attack against a U.S. convoy Friday -- also in eastern Baghdad -- killed five Americans and wounded five others.

It was unclear whether the attack was carried out by Sunni insurgents or Shiite Muslim militants enraged by the crackdown against radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who commands a following in the Shiite slums of the capital.

Gunmen attacked an Iraqi police station guarded by American soldiers in Baghdad's Shiite neighborhood of Sadr City. The Americans counterattacked, seizing a mortar tube abandoned by the militiamen, witnesses said.

Also Saturday, assailants ambushed two sport utility vehicles, favored by Western civilian contractors, on the road to Baghdad's airport. An Iraqi Interior Ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said two or three people were killed but he had no further information.

In Mosul, attackers fired a rocket-propelled grenade at an Iraqi Army recruiting center, wounding 17 people, hospital and police said.

Iraq's new prime minister, in his first televised address to the nation, called for a halt to attacks on Americans and other foreign soliers, saying their presence would be needed to help the sovereign leadership improve security.

"The targeting of the multinational forces under the leadership of the United States to force them to leave Iraq would inflict a major disaster on Iraq, especially before the completion of the building of security and military institutions," Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said.

As sovereignty approaches, coalition and Iraqi authorities have stepped up efforts to ease tensions, including those in the Shiite holy cities of Najaf and Kufa where U.S. troops and al-Sadr's militia have faced off since early April.

Under a deal worked out between Shiite leaders and al-Sadr's militia, his al-Mahdi Army is supposed to pull back from the Islamic shrines in the twin cities and hand over security to Iraqi police, according to Najaf Gov. Adnan al-Zurufi.

At the governor's request, the U.S. Army agreed to stay away from the Imam Ali Shrine in Najaf and the mosque in Kufa where al-Sadr preaches to give Iraqi security forces a chance to end the standoff.

By midday Saturday, al-Sadr's fighters remained at the most sensitive religious sites but were no longer brandishing weapons, an aide to the cleric said.

The Najaf police chief, Sayed Ghalib al-Jazairi, told The Associated Press that he would send police in civilian clothes to the site to "assess the situation." He complained that his men were too poorly armed and equipped to take over right away.

"We are responsible for all the holy sites now," al-Jazairi said. "We went through the city of Najaf, we are in control and we have capabilities. And I have a reserve force."

The agreement to end fighting around Najaf and Kufa is broadly similar to the accord that ended the bloody, three-week Marine siege of Fallujah, a Sunni insurgent stronghold west of Baghdad. The Marines agreed in late April to lift the siege and turn over security to an Iraqi force commanded by former officers from Saddam Hussein's army.

Al-Sadr's rebellion began after the U.S.-led occupation authority closed his newspaper, arrested a key aide and announced a warrant for his arrest in the April 2003 murder of a moderate cleric in Najaf.

On Friday, the United States and Britain made more concessions in order to win U.N. Security Council approval of a new resolution endorsing the blueprint for Iraq after the occupation ends this month.

The two allies revised their draft resolution to give Iraq's interim government authority to order the U.S.-led multinational force to leave at any time.

The latest draft resolution -- the third in less than two weeks -- also spelled out the limits on the new government's activities, barring it from taking "any actions affecting Iraq's destiny" beyond the seven months it will be in power.

That was aimed at satisfying the Iraqi Shiite hierarchy which wants such far-reaching decisions to be taken only by an elected government expected to be chosen by Jan. 31.

In a televised address to the nation, Allawi said that Iraq would never accept permanent occupation and looked forward to having the U.N. Security Council adopt "a new resolution regarding the transfer of full sovereignty to the interim Iraqi government."

But Allawi, a former exile leader who had close ties to the CIA and State Department, said security was a paramount challenge facing the new government and that it would work toward national unity after the divisions created by the war, tyranny and military occupation.

In Mosul, Salah al-Zidani, brother of the informant who led U.S. forces to Saddam's sons, was assassinated by gunmen, witnesses and hospital officials said Saturday.

Al-Zidani was traveling in a car when gunmen in a passing vehicle opened fire, a hospital official said. Al-Zidani died instantly and three companions were injured, the officer said.

U.S. officials have not publicly confirmed who turned in Odai and Qusai Hussein, but many people in Mosul have identified him as Nawaf al-Zidani, who collected the $30 million reward -- $15 million for each son. Nawaf al-Zidani has not been seen since Saddam's sons were killed in an hours-long gunbattle at a villa in Mosul.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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