At Least Nine GIs Killed in W. Iraq
Tuesday, April 4, 2006
BAGHDAD, April 3 -- Nine U.S. service members were killed in western Iraq on Sunday, including five Marines whose seven-ton truck rolled over during a flash flood near al-Asad air base, the military reported Monday. Two Marines and a sailor are still missing in the crash.
Three other Marines and a sailor died Sunday "from enemy action" in Anbar province, according to a separate statement issued Monday.
The deaths came two days after a month in which there were 32 U.S. military fatalities, the lowest monthly figure since early 2004. At least 13 Americans have been killed already in April.
More than 20 Iraqis died violently Monday, a day when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw tried to press Iraq's political leaders -- deadlocked in their attempts to name a prime minister and form a new government -- to move quickly in the face of growing instability.
The country's Shiite Muslim governing alliance, which won the largest share of seats in the December parliamentary elections and therefore the first chance to form a government, remained divided over its nominee for prime minister. Four of the seven parties in the coalition have told designate Ibrahim al-Jafari, who is also the current prime minister, that he can no longer count on their support.
Iraq's Kurdish and Sunni Arab blocs are vehemently opposed to Jafari, who won the Shiites' nomination in February by one vote.
A senior Iraqi official involved in the talks called Jafari "unfit" to govern and accused him of "holding the country for ransom" by refusing to relinquish his nomination. "This is an irresponsible thing," the official continued. "This country is in deep political and security crisis."
Jafari has remained steadfast in the face of flagging support. An adviser, Adnan Ali Kadhimi, said Monday that Jafari had no intention of withdrawing.
Among the options being discussed for breaking the deadlock are holding another vote within the Shiite alliance or submitting multiple Shiite candidates to the full parliament for a vote. Jafari's opponents say they believe either option would lead to his ouster.
His rivals within the alliance -- including the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the country's leading political party -- could also break away from the Shiite coalition and form a new bloc with the Kurds and Sunnis. Powerful Shiite clerics in the southern city of Najaf, however, have encouraged the alliance to remain intact, according to a U.S. official.
In recent weeks, U.S. officials have been increasingly critical of Jafari and have questioned his fitness to lead. At a news conference Monday before they departed Iraq after a two-day visit, Rice and Straw urged Iraqi leaders to break the deadlock by choosing a prime minister soon.
"You cannot have a circumstance in which there's a political vacuum in a country like this that faces so much threat of violence," Rice said.