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Iraq Toll Rises Again as UN Says 35,000 Civilians Died in 2006

  • Jim Fry

Another string of deadly attacks in Baghdad (Tuesday) killed scores of people and injured many others. Bombs exploded just after release of a United Nations report estimating that such violence killed more than 34,000 Iraqi civilians last year. U.S. officials did not dispute the U.N. casualty report. At the White House, President Bush met with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, seeking support for U.S. efforts for peace in Iraq.

Iraqi civilians continued to die in their capital city yesterday. In the bloodiest attack, two minivans exploded near a university as students queued to board the vehicles. Police say 65 people were killed in the Shi'ite neighborhood.

Earlier, two bombs were detonated five minutes apart in a used-motorcycle marketplace. Fifteen were killed and dozens injured. This man saw it: "Many people died and the people who came to rescue them were killed in the second explosion," he said.

Tuesday's violence came on the heels of a U.N. report that said more than 34,000 Iraqis died in violent incidents last year. The U.N. gathered the information from hospitals and from the Iraqi Ministry of Health. The U.N. reported, almost 100 people died every day.

White House Press Secretary Tony Snow did not dispute this report, although he has questioned other body counts. "I don't want to get into the position of trying to quibble with the methodology of a report that we really haven't had a chance to study. It is clear that the level of violence in Baghdad and throughout Iraq is not acceptable."

At the White House, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met with President Bush. Mr. Ban says the deteriorating situation in Iraq is a grave concern. Mr. Bush spoke of shared goals. "The United States wants to work with the United Nations to achieve a peace through the spread of freedom."

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was in the Middle East Tuesday, where she won cautious Saudi support for the latest U.S. plan to stabilize Iraq. Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said he supports the objectives of the security plan, but he would not comment on tactical details.

U.S. military convoys have been heading north into Iraq from Kuwait, amid questions about the Iraqi government's cooperation on a troop surge into Baghdad. Spokesman Tony Snow says Iraq's government is not dragging its feet.

"There's already movement among some Iraqi brigades that are making their way toward Baghdad. So, we know those are going on, said Mr. Snow. “Rather than saying, 'Yes, you have to meet this benchmark.' Yeah, we want to see progress and we want to see it soon. We're starting to see signs of that."

General George Casey gave a clearer view of U.S. goals in Iraq. "I think you'll see a gradual evolution the next two to three months, and then you'll see things continue to get better out through the spring, out through the summer and fall. It'll take some time."

For now, it appears the streets of Baghdad will remain a killing zone.