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Iraqi Official: 63 Insurgents Killed in Battle in Al Anbar Province

A local official in Iraq says police killed 63 insurgents during a two-hour gunbattle in volatile al Anbar province.

An aide to the governor of al Anbar, Ahmed al-Dulaimi, says the fighting began when gunmen attacked a police station Tuesday in the city of Ramadi.

The death toll could not be independently confirmed.

Police found 60 bodies Tuesday in Baghdad. Also in the capital, security officials say car bomb blasts killed at least 15 people, and militants attacked a bus of Shi'ite mosque workers, killing at least 14.

Meanwhile, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki proposed holding a national reconciliation conference to discuss his country's political and security crisis. Mr. Maliki said the government also will send envoys to neighboring countries to solicit their help in stabilizing Iraq.

The White House responded to the announcement by calling it a good idea for Iraq to reach out to its neighbors.

In other news, U.S. military officials say they expect the country to be under the control of Iraqi forces by mid-2007. Major General William Caldwell says President Bush and Prime Minister Maliki agreed to the accelerated timetable during their recent summit in Jordan.

And Saddam Hussein asked to be excused from attending future sessions of his Kurdish genocide trial. In a handwritten statement, the former Iraqi leader accused the judge of barring him and his lawyers from speaking during parts of the trial.