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Iraqi Assembly Gets Off To Quiet but Telling Start

Otherwise, it was a relatively quiet day in Baghdad, where a mortar shell hit a house in the city center but caused no casualties, according to a policeman at the scene. In Baqubah, about 35 miles to the northeast, however, a suicide bomber killed at least three Iraqi soldiers and wounded five others at an army checkpoint. And in Mosul in the north, two police officers were killed Tuesday night in an insurgent attack at their homes.

[The U.S. military announced Thursday that a soldier from the 1st Corps Support Command was killed Wednesday by a roadside bomb south of Baghdad, the Reuters news agency reported.]

The outgoing Iraqi president, Ghazi Yawar, left, and the outgoing prime minister, Ayad Allawi, arrive for parliament's opening session. (Pool Photo/Ceerwan Aziz Via AP)

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In brief remarks to the assembly, in which a predominantly Shiite Muslim coalition holds a slim majority of seats, several members of the interim government stressed the need to bring minority Sunni Muslims, many of whom boycotted the elections, into the new leadership. "Iraq will not be stable and unified unless it will be blessed with reconciliation with all components of the Iraqi people," said the Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani.

But many Sunnis are wary. "We are watching carefully what they will do," said Ghazi Ahmed, a deputy dean at Anbar University in Ramadi, a city in Iraq's Sunni Triangle, a hotbed of insurgent activity. "They should be careful about humiliating the Sunnis. We want our rights from them, and that's it."

Assembly members remarked on the historic nature of the meeting. Passing out business cards that read "National Assembly," Yonadam Kanna, one of six Christians in the body, noted that it was the first time in Iraq that there was "a changing of the power without bloodshed, in a democratic way."

Kurds, who control 70 seats in the assembly, displayed a certain feistiness at the opening session. In addition to correcting Fayad, Kurdish legislators complained when the oath was delivered only in Arabic.

The parliament's chief of staff, Azet Sadek, explained that the judge who administered the oath "does not speak Kurdish and consequently there will be many language mistakes" if he tried to repeat the swearing-in.

Special correspondents Bassam Sebti and Khalid Saffar in Baghdad, Shereen Jerjes in Irbil, Dlovan Brwary in Mosul, Saad Sarhan in Najaf, Emad Zainel in Basra and Hasan Shammari in Baqubah contributed to this report.

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