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Cheney: Iraqi Leaders Must Make Progress on Security, Political Issues


U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney was in Baghdad on Wednesday, where he said Iraqi officials are showing a greater sense of urgency in reconciling political divisions. In Irbil, the capital of Iraq's northern autonomous Kurdistan region, a rare suicide bomb attack killed 14 people and wounded 87 others. VOA's Barry Newhouse reports from Irbil.

Vice President Cheney's unannounced visit to the Iraqi capital comes as the government's political divisions have drawn criticism from U.S. lawmakers.

Splits among Shi'ite, Sunni and Kurdish political factions have held up important legislation such as Iraq's oil law and stalled security efforts.

Following talks with Iraqi political leaders, Mr. Cheney told reporters that he sensed politicians are ready to make a new effort to resolve their differences. "I believe Prime Minister Maliki plans an address to the parliament this week on many of these issues. And of course, it's a political process, it depends on action by their legislative body. But as I say, I do believe there is a greater sense of urgency now than I've seen previously," he said.

In a statement released by the White House, Mr. Maliki said the vice president had laid the foundation for working to resolve security and domestic political issues.

Mr. Cheney experienced a reminder of Baghdad's perilous security situation when a large explosion rattled the windows of the building where he was working in the fortified Green Zone.

Elsewhere in Iraq, four Iraqi journalists were shot dead in the violent northern city Kirkuk.

In the capital of the Kurdish autonomous region, Irbil, some 350 kilometers north of Baghdad, a morning suicide bomb attack struck outside the regional government's interior ministry offices.

The blast gutted several floors of the building and tore through nearby shops, burying victims under rubble.

The prime minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government told reporters that those involved in the attacks are believed to have come from outside the Kurdish region but also had help from local people.

Prime Minister Nechiran Barzani said the government wants to assure residents that security forces will go after the local people who helped the attackers and brought them to Irbil.

The Kurdish-majority city of Irbil has been hit with few attacks, despite being less than 100 kilometers from the violent cities of Kirkuk and Mosul. Wednesday's death toll is the largest since bombers killed more than 60 people in May 2005, in an attack on the local offices of the Kurdistan Democratic Party.

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