Iraq's Prime Minister-designate, Nouri al-Maliki, says he expects to present a new government to parliament in the coming days.  The latest political negotiations come against a backdrop of new violence, with at least 17 people killed Tuesday in a car bomb explosion in the northwestern city of Tal Afar.

Mr. Al-Maliki said Tuesday that the major hurdles to forming a new government have been overcome, and he expects the new Cabinet would be finalized this week, possibly as soon as Wednesday or Thursday.

He says political leaders from the country's main Shi'ite, Kurdish and Sunni Arab blocs have completed nominations for the main posts, and that just a few ministries remain to be decided.  He did not name any candidates, saying he would announce the entire Cabinet together.

However, it appears no agreement has been reached yet on who would head two of the most important ministries, oil and defense. Both ministries are crucial to bringing stability and economic recovery to Iraq.

Under a constitutional deadline, Mr. al-Maliki has until May 22 to present a Cabinet to parliament.

Meanwhile, the violence continues.  Police in the northern town of Tal Afar say a suicide bomber detonated his explosives-filled vehicle at a market Tuesday evening killing and wounding dozens of people.

In Baghdad, and in several other central Iraqi towns, police found the bodies of at least a dozen Iraqis, including a 10-year-old boy and three decapitated Iraqi soldiers.  U.S. military officials announced the death of an American soldier who they say was killed Monday in Baghdad.

In other developments, Ramsey Clark, the former U.S. Attorney General who is one of Saddam Hussein's defense attorneys, told reporters in Washington that the make up of the Iraqi Special Tribunal guarantees that Saddam and his co-defendants cannot get a fair trial.

"All the judges are Kurds, or if they are Arabs they are Shia," he noted.  "The defendants, with an exception or two, are all Sunni.  It is a sectarian persecution if you will."

Clark says the trial has contributed to sectarian violence, and that executing Saddam and other former Sunni Arab leaders would only lead to more sectarian troubles.