The U.S. military has extended the combat tours of 20,000 American troops in Iraq.
U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announced the decision Thursday, saying the troops will stay up to an additional 90 days.
The military has been moving troops into Iraq to relieve other soldiers, after a year of combat and stabilization efforts. But the head of the U.S. Central Command, General John Abizaid, asked that some troops stay longer while they battle insurgents there.
Thursday, in Baghdad, unidentified gunmen killed the Iranian embassy's cultural and press attache, Khalil Nai'imi. It was not clear how the killing would impact efforts by an Iranian delegation to mediate a standoff between the U.S.-led coalition and radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who has taken refuge in the holy city of Najaf.
Mediation efforts are also continuing in the restive town of Fallujah besieged by U.S. Marines for nearly two weeks. U.S. military officials say insurgents there are continuing to attack Marines, despite a ceasefire announced last Friday.
In another development, Denmark's foreign ministry said Friday, a Danish national is missing and feared abducted in Iraq. Kidnappers are holding dozens of foreigners in Iraq. One Italian captive was killed by his abductors. Three Japanese hostages were freed Thursday.