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Bomb rips pilgrim bus as US-Iraqi talks begin

Latest update : 2008-03-11

Over 20 people died in separate roadside bombings on Tuesday as US and Iraqi officials met to discuss the future of the US military presence in Iraq.

At least 16 civilians were killed when their passenger bus was hit by a roadside bomb in southern Iraq on Tuesday as US and Iraqi officials began talks on the future US military presence in Iraq.
   
The bus was travelling from the southern port city of Basra to Nasiriyah when it was hit by the bomb, some 430 kilometers (267 miles) south of Baghdad, Nasiriyah police Lieutenant Colonel Ali Siwan said.
   
At least 22 people were wounded in the incident.
   
Elsewhere in Iraq, 14 people were killed in clashes between militants and security forces, nine in the northern city of Mosul and five in the central Shiite city of Kut, security officials said.
   
The latest violence came a day after insurgents killed eight US soldiers in two separate attacks, making Monday one of the deadliest for American forces in months.
   
Five US soldiers were killed and three wounded in a suicide attack in the once upscale neighbourhood of Mansur in Baghdad, the military said, while insurgents killed three more US troops and their translator in Diyala province, the theatre of a joint US-Iraqi sweep of Al-Qaeda targets.
   
The latest deaths bring the US military's death toll since the March 2003 invasion to 3,983, according to an AFP tally based on independent website www.icasualties.org.
   
The mounting toll comes at a time when the military is reducing its troops amid claims that daily violence has fallen since August.
   
The military's losses in Iraq is one of the key issues in the November US presidential elections and has hit the campaign of President George W. Bush's Republican party.
   
Meanwhile, the foreign ministry in Baghdad announced the start of talks between US and Iraqi officials on the future of the US military presence in Iraq.
   
"The two parties started today, in the ministry of foreign affairs, talks .... on agreements and arrangements for long-term cooperation and friendship, including agreement on temporary US troop presence in Iraq," the ministry said.
   
The talks follow a November agreement between Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki setting a July 31 target date to formalize US-Iraq economic, political, and security relations.
   
At the time Maliki said the accord sets 2008 as the final year for US-led forces to operate in Iraq under a UN mandate, which the new bilateral arrangement would replace.
   
The new agreement when finalised would trigger the end of UN sanctions imposed after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and return full sovereignty to the government in Baghdad.
   
The talks between the two delegations are expected to cover issues such as whether Washington would have permanent bases in Iraq, how many US troops would be stationed here, and for how long.
   
The final deal would require the approval of the Iraqi parliament.
   
 

Date created : 2008-03-11

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