2 US Soldiers Killed By Roadside Bomb In Iraq

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BAGHDAD — A roadside bomb killed two U.S. soldiers in a predominantly Shiite area in Baghdad on Monday, the first deadly attack against American troops in the capital in nearly a month.

At least nine Iraqis also were killed in explosions elsewhere in the Baghdad area, Iraqi officials said, in a grim reminder of the dangers that continue to face security forces and civilians despite significant security gains over the past year.

The U.S. military said another American soldier was wounded when the blast struck a U.S. patrol at about 9:30 a.m. in eastern Baghdad. The area was the site of fierce clashes and frequent roadside bombings blamed on Shiite militiamen before a cease-fire by anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

The soldiers were the first to be killed in Baghdad since July 8, when a roadside bomb killed Spc. William McMillan III, a 22-year-old Army medic from Lexington, Ky., and wounded five other soldiers in the western neighborhood of Amariyah, a Sunni area.

Iraqi politicians, meanwhile, remained in bitter debate over a power-sharing formula for the disputed, oil-rich city of Kirkuk that has blocked passage of a law providing for provincial elections. The U.S. hopes the nationwide local vote will stem remaining support for violence by more fairly distributing power among Iraq's rival ethnic and religious communities.

Talks continued late into the night with the lawmakers facing intense pressure from U.S. and U.N. officials to reach agreement. Parliamentary officials scheduled another legislative session for Tuesday morning.

The Kurds object to an article in the law that would equally distribute the council seats among Arabs, Kurds and Turkomen and dilute their powers in Tamim province, which lies just south of their own semiautonomous region in Iraq's north.

Tensions rose last week after a suicide bombing killed more than 20 people in Kirkuk and the Kurdish-dominated Tamim council called for the area to be annexed into the self-ruled Kurdish region. The council decision was nonbinding but provoked Turkomen and Arabs.

The main sticking point appeared to be Kurdish demands to include a reference to a constitutionally mandated referendum on Kirkuk's status. The referendum was supposed to have been held by the end of 2007 but was delayed because of fierce resistance among Arabs and Turkomen.

Massoud Barzani, president of the Kurdish region, said his bloc had agreed to a U.N. compromise proposal that would delay the Tamim vote while allowing elections to go ahead in Iraq's 17 other provinces.

"We have made some concessions, including agreeing to postpone the elections, and we have shown flexibility on this," Barzani said in televised remarks after returning to the northern city of Irbil from Baghdad, where he took part in negotiations. "We are not ready to make more concessions."

But the political factions remained deadlocked over the referendum issue.

"We want to see the final version of the U.N. proposal. We want to make sure that there is no reference to the referendum in it," said Aydin Aksu, the head of the Baghdad branch of the Iraqi Turkomen Front.

Osama al-Nujeifi, an Arab Sunni lawmaker, said the Kurds "have not shown any flexibility and they are not interested in reaching any deals."

The dispute over Kirkuk has shown the sharp differences among Iraq's ethnic and sectarian leaders that have made it difficult for them to compromise on critical issues in the interest of national reconciliation.

It has also raised concern that ethnic tensions could spark new violence and jeopardize recent security gains. That fear was underscored this week by a series of attacks in Baghdad and surrounding areas.

The deadliest attack Monday was against an Iraqi police patrol vehicle in Mahaweel, about 35 miles south of Baghdad. The roadside bombing killed four policemen and three civilian bystanders, according to Iraqi police.

Another roadside bomb on Palestine Street, a major thoroughfare in Baghdad, killed two Iraqis _ a soldier and a civilian _ and wounded seven others, said Iraqi officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to release the information.

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Associated Press writers Selcan Hacaoglu, Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Sameer N. Yacoub in Baghdad and Yahya Barzanji in Sulaimaniyah contributed to this report.