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Car Bomb Explodes Near Iraqi PM's Party Headquarters

Pressing in their daily effort to disrupt this month's elections in Iraq, insurgents tried to blow up the party headquarters of the Iraqi interim prime minister on Monday. Prime Minister Iyad Allawi was not inside the building, but the blast killed three people and wounded more than two dozen others.

Iraqi police say a yellow car attempted to ram a checkpoint near the Baghdad office of Mr. Allawi's National Accord Party early Monday.

When policemen tried to stop the vehicle, the car exploded. Shortly after the blast, a gun battle broke out between police and gunmen in the area, setting three police cars on fire.

A week ago Monday, a suicide car bomb targeted another powerful political figure, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim. The explosion, outside the Baghdad housing complex of Mr. Hakim's Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, killed and wounded scores of people, but Mr. Hakim was not injured.

Like many U.S. and Iraqi government officials, the Shiite cleric blames fighters loyal to former dictator Saddam Hussein and Sunni Muslim extremists for much of the violence plaguing Baghdad and in areas north and west of the country. In the past several weeks, insurgents have mostly targeted politicians and Iraq's security forces, accusing them of being collaborators with the United States.

Mr. Hakim says radical Sunni Arabs are determined to undermine the election process because they fear losing power to the majority Shiites at the polls on January 30th.

On Sunday, he also lashed out at al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden for meddling in Iraqi efforts to move toward democracy.

Mr. Hakim says he denounces what he calls Osama bin Laden's "ruthless interference in Iraq." Mr. Hakim was referring to an audiotape released last Monday in which the terrorist leader urged Iraqis to boycott the elections.

Government and Shiite leaders, including Mr. Hakim, have advocated restraint in the face of what they perceive as deadly provocations. They say they are just as determined to hold elections on time as insurgents are in trying to derail them.

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