U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says the Pentagon hopes to bring home some 20,000 troops from Iraq after next week's parliamentary elections there.
Mr. Rumsfeld said Thursday the move would reverse a troop build-up aimed at preventing attacks ahead of the Iraqi vote.
Separately, military officials said they may cancel the deployment of two brigades to Iraq in coming weeks.
Meanwhile, Iraqi militants in an Internet statement claimed to have killed an American security consultant, Ronald Schulz, taken hostage this week. The White House said it could not confirm the claim.
Four Western peace activists are also being held by militants, who have threatened to kill them Saturday, unless Iraqi prisoners are released.
Also Thursday, a suicide bomber blew himself up on a Baghdad bus, killing at least 30 people.