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Military: 7 U.S. Soldiers Killed in Iraq

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By ROBERT H. REID
The Associated Press
Sunday, May 20, 2007; 10:51 PM

BAGHDAD -- Bombings killed seven U.S. soldiers in Baghdad and a southern city, the U.S. military said Sunday, and the country's Sunni vice president spoke out against a proposed oil law, clouding the future of a key benchmark for assuring continued U.S. support for the government.

Six of the soldiers were killed Saturday in a bombing in western Baghdad, the military said in a statement. Their interpreter was also killed.

The other soldier died in a blast Saturday in Diwaniyah, a mostly Shiite city 80 miles south of the capital where radical Shiite militias operate. Two soldiers were wounded in that attack, the military said.

Those deaths brought the number of American troops killed in Iraq since Friday to at least 15 _ eight of them in Baghdad. So far, at least 71 U.S. forces have died in Iraq this month _ most of them from bombs.

Elsewhere, several explosions were heard from the area around the Green Zone in central Baghdad, but it was unclear if any were inside the U.S.-controlled area, which has increasingly come under mortar and rocket fire. The American military referred questions about the explosions to the U.S. Embassy, which did not respond.

In recent months, U.S. officials have been stepping up pressure on Iraq's religiously and ethnically based parties to reach agreements on a range of political and economic initiatives to encourage national reconciliation and bring an end to the fighting.

Progress in meeting those benchmarks is considered crucial to continued U.S. support for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government at a time when Democrats in Congress are pressing for an end to the war. Those benchmarks include enactment of a new law to manage the country's vast oil wealth and distribute revenues among the various groups.

But prospects for quick approval received a setback Sunday when the country's Sunni vice president told reporters in Jordan that the proposed legislation gives too many concessions to foreign oil companies.

"We disagree with the production sharing agreement," Tariq al-Hashemi told reporters on the sidelines of an international conference hosted by the Geneva-based World Economic Forum. "We want foreign oil companies, and we have to lure them into Iraq to learn from their expertise and acquire their technology, but we shouldn't give them big privileges."

The bill also faces opposition from the Kurds, who have demanded greater control of oil fields in Kurdish areas. Kurdish parties control 58 of the 275 parliament seats.

Iraq's Cabinet signed off on the oil bill in February and sent it to parliament, a move that the Bush administration hailed as a major sign of political progress in Iraq. But parliament has yet to consider the legislation.

Al-Hashemi is among three leaders of a Sunni bloc that controls 44 seats. Together, the Kurds and the Sunnis have enough legislative muscle to delay passage of the measure, which is likely to draw opposition from some Shiite lawmakers, too.


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© 2007 The Associated Press

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