The Iraqi prime minister has ordered a halt to construction of a controversial security barrier that the U.S. military had been building around a mainly Sunni neighborhood in Baghdad. Meanwhile, a series of suicide bombings in Iraq killed at least 46 people and wounded more than 100. VOA Middle East Correspondent Challiss McDonough has more from Cairo.
After meeting with the head of the Arab League in Cairo, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told reporters for the second day he has ordered construction of the wall to halt.
He said, "I oppose the building of the wall, and its construction will stop. There are other ways to protect neighborhoods. I should point out that the goal was not to separate, but to protect. I pointed out that this will remind us of other walls that we reject, so I have ordered it to stop and to find other means of protecting the neighborhoods."
Iraqi and American officials insist the five meter-high concrete barricade was not aimed at separating Sunnis from Shi'ites in a city that has already grown increasingly divided along sectarian lines. The U.S. military put out a statement attempting to explain its plan to construct what it is calling gated communities in Baghdad, and arguing that some residents have welcomed the idea.
But in the Baghdad district of Adhamiya, hundreds of Sunni residents marched through the streets protesting the barrier that was being built around their neighborhood.
New U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker told reporters construction would stop.
"Obviously we will respect the wishes of the government and the prime minister, Ryan Crocker. "I am not sure where we are right now concerning our discussions on how to move forward on this particular issue."
While the ambassador was speaking, a suicide bomber detonated his explosive vest in a restaurant in a mixed Sunni-Shia neighborhood about 100 meters outside the fortified Green Zone. Police said the attack killed at least seven people. It was one of a string of deadly bombings that rocked the Iraqi capital and other parts of the country.
Later in the same district, two car bombs exploded outside the Iranian Embassy, killing at least two civilians. Elsewhere, two guards outside the Tunisian Embassy were wounded in a drive-by shooting.
The deadliest attack of the day was a suicide car bomb near a restaurant in Ramadi, west of the capital.
Earlier, another suicide car bomb exploded outside the office of the Kurdistan Democratic Party in Tal Uskuf, a mainly Christian town near the northern city of Mosul. Shocked residents said it was the first attack of its kind in the town.
The Kurdistan Democratic Party is led by Massoud Barzani, who is also the leader of the autonomous Kurdish region.