The trial of an Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at former U.S. President George W. Bush is set to begin on Thursday.

Muntazer al-Zaidi faces up to 15 years in prison on charges of assaulting a foreign leader.  Al-Zaidi's lawyers said this week that they will argue the charges should be dismissed, calling the incident a "spontaneous" act of protest against Iraqi "occupation."

The reporter for a Cairo-based television station has been in police custody since December 14, when he threw his shoes at Mr. Bush during a press conference in the Iraqi capital.  The act generated world wide attention.

In other news, Iraqi officials say a bus filled with Shi'ite pilgrims collided with a British military vehicle on Wednesday, killing seven Iraqis and injuring at least 27 others.

The pilgrims were returning from the Shi'ite holy city of Karbala late Tuesday, when British officials say their minibus drove into the back of a parked British armored vehicle.

Separately, Iraqi officials say gunmen killed a member of the country's largest Sunni Arab party in Baghdad on Wednesday. 

Samir Safwat of the Iraqi Islamic Party is the latest politician to die in violence surrounding last month's provincial elections.

Voting day was largely peaceful, however, drawing international praise for Iraq's political progress.

Despite that progress, legislative debate on a new budget is stalled because there is no parliamentary speaker.

Lawmakers voted on five candidates Wednesday and plan a run-off election for the two finalists, Ayad al-Sammaraie and Khalil Jadoua, Thursday.

Parliament has not had a speaker since December, when Mahmoud al-Mashhadani resigned after insulting lawmakers during a heated debate about foreign troops in Iraq.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.