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Car Bombs Kill at Least 2 Dozen in Iraq


Ibrahim al-Jaafari

Iraq's Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari says the government has reached agreement on the five vacant positions on the Cabinet, including the key ministries of defense and oil. Mr. al-Jaafari did not disclose the nominees but said the names reported to include a Sunni nominee for the defense post, will be sent to the National Assembly for a vote on Sunday.

The appoinment of a Sunni to head the important defense ministry is a big political gain for the country's minority ethnic group. Shi'ites and Kurds hold the most positions in the partial cabinet, which was approved last month.

The latest nominees won approval from President Jalal Talabani who arrived in Amman, Jordan, Saturday for his first foreign trip. Mr. Talabani met with King Abdullah for talks on fighting insurgents in Iraq and rebuilding diplomatic ties between the two neighbors.

Meantime, two car bombers targeted a foreign civilian convoy in Baghdad, killing nearly two dozen people, including two American contractors. At least three dozen others were injured.

The new wave of suicide bombings has killed some 300 people in Iraq, mostly civilians, since the new government took power following January elections.

Also Saturday, a group of U.S. lawmakers arrived in Iraq for meetings with Iraqi and U.S. officials. Republican congressman Todd Akin said security forces are making some progress against insurgents. "We've been doing a very good job of picking up insurgents, and as a result of that, what's happened, the insurgents that remain become much more tight in their ability to command and control. So the groups that we're dealing with are smaller but they have a lot more secure kind of infrastructure for how they talk and control and organize the things they do," he said.

Fellow Republican congressman Robin Hayes said Iraqi insurgents have targeted Iraqi police and civilians and U.S. forces. But their key goal, he said, is to block Iraq's new government. "Mostly these are folks who are committed to destroying the possibility of a democracy, a democratic government in Iraq. Every time they see something, like the initial vote, now the organization of the government, they are desperately trying every possible measure to disrupt the process," he said.

The U.S. lawmakers say other major obstacles remain in Iraq, such as improving food distribution and ensuring electrical and water supplies.

But they also expressed optimism at Iraq's political future, encouraging officials to make progress on writing a constitution and holding additional voting this year.

Iraq's government has set an August deadline for the new draft constitution, followed by a popular referendum in October.

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