The U.S. military says seven American troops have been killed in combat in Iraq.

A military statement issued Friday, says four Marines were killed while conducting operations Thursday in western al-Anbar province.

President Bush visited Anbar earlier this week and hailed improved security in the predominantly Sunni Arab region that was a stronghold of Sunni insurgents.

The military said a roadside bomb blast killed three soldiers Thursday in northern Nineveh province, where U.S. and Iraqi forces are conducting an operation to hunt down al-Qaida-linked terrorists.

In other news, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said he does not support the execution of a former aide to Saddam Hussein for the mass killings of Kurds in the late 1980s. Mr. Talabani, who is a Kurd, said former defense minister Sultan Hashim al-Tai deserves to be spared because he was carrying out orders and threatened with death if he refused.

Mr. Talabani also told a news conference in the northern Iraqi city of Sulaimaniyah that aTai engaged in official contact with the Kurdish community under the ousted Saddam government.

Earlier this week, an Iraqi appeals court upheld the death sentences imposed against Tai and two other former officials for the killing of 180,000 Kurds in the so-called Anfal campaign.


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