Another soldier was killed in Iraq early Saturday while guarding a bank in the capital, bringing the U.S. death toll to 149 — two more than the number of deaths in the 1991 Gulf War (search).   

The First Infantry Division (search) soldier died outside the Al-Rasheed Bank around 2 a.m. The incident occurred less than 24 hours after insurgents attacked a convoy with explosives and killed an American soldier in Fallujah (search), a city west of Baghdad.

Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez (search), commander of coalition troops in Iraq, said his forces were scrutinizing the attacks, which apparently are not abating.

"We learn from every engagement in order to learn to beat the enemy. Clearly, we are fighting and we expect that this will continue for a while," Sanchez told reporters.

He said U.S. forces would set up an Iraqi civilian defense force consisting of 6,500 men to help Americans on patrols. He said the Iraqis would be armed and will work with the Americans as translators reduce misunderstandings between the American forces and the Iraqi people.

Meanwhile, Iraq's one-week-old, American-backed administration failed to choose a president. Instead, it decided on a weak, three-man rotating leadership.

The council, agonizingly shepherded into existence by L. Paul Bremer (search), the U.S. administrator for Iraq, was announced last Sunday, saying its first order of business was the election of a president. When that did not happen after six days in session, officials of the Iraqi government said on Saturday that it would share the leadership job among at least three of 25 members.

Bremer — who appointed the members of the Governing Council — returned to Washington Saturday. His office did not respond to requests for an assessment of the council's first week in business, but a spokesman for one council member issued a short statement:

"There is a general agreement that the presidency should be on a rotational basis because each political group in the council should shoulder an equal role and equal responsibility," said Ali Abdul-Amir, spokesman for council-member Iyad Allawi of the Iraqi National Accord.

Also Saturday, thousands of Shiites (search) protested outside the U.S. military and political headquarters in a former presidential palace in Baghdad. They were demonstrating because they said the U.S. military briefly surrounded the house of a Shiite cleric in the holy city of Najaf after he issued an anti-American sermon during Friday prayers.

The cleric in question, Muqtada al-Sadr (search), called the governing council an assembly of "nonbelievers" and said he would form a rival political body. The military said it was checking whether they had taken any action against the spiritual leader.

Bremer had granted Shiites – who suffered harsh oppression under Saddam – a slight majority on the governing council. But most of the Shiite members are secular figures or moderate clerics.

The U.S. administrator left Baghdad unannounced Friday and was expected to spend about a week in Washington. His Baghdad office said the former diplomat and counterterrorism expert would visit the U.S. capital for consultations. He also was scheduled to appear on three weekly U.S. television interview programs Sunday.

In Baghdad this week, Bremer nearly disappeared from public view after the council was announced, an apparent bid to diminish perception that the new Governing Council was an American puppet.  

The three likely members of the rotating presidency will be a leading Shiite politician, a highly respected Shiite cleric and former Foreign Minister Adnan Pachachi, a council source told the AP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The 80-year-old Pachachi, a Sunni Muslim, served in the government that Saddam's Baath Party ousted in a 1968 coup. He will be joined in the leadership troika by 78-year-old Mohammed Bahr al-Uloum, a cleric who returned from London after the 1991 Gulf War. He served as the council president during its first week in session.

The leadership group will be rounded out by Abdel-Aziz al-Hakim (search), who is in his early 50s, head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq and also a Shiite cleric. He opposes the U.S. presence in the country but has close ties to U.S.-backed Kurds and Ahmad Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress.

Chalabi, who left Iraq as a teenager, has been touted in some U.S. government circles as Iraq's likely first post-Saddam leader. But many in Iraq are distrustful of his close ties to Washington.

A Western diplomat who works closely with the council said the decision to establish a rotating presidency did not reflect political divisions among members of the governing body, whom, he said, were cooperating despite their religious and ethnic differences. The diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the move to a joint presidency meant the job would be largely symbolic.

The move clearly reflected an unwillingness among council members to vest too much authority in any one of them.

Violence persisted, with a U.S. soldier killed early Saturday while guarding a bank in west Baghdad. The soldier's death brought to 149 the number of U.S. personnel killed in combat since the March 20 start of the war -- two more than the 1991 Gulf War total for U.S. deaths in combat.

Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of coalition troops in Iraq, said his forces were studying each attack carefully.

"We learn from every engagement in order to learn to beat the enemy. Clearly, we are fighting and we expect that this will continue for a while," Sanchez told reporters.

He said U.S. forces would set up a 6,500-man strong Iraqi civilian defense force with members patrolling with U.S. forces. He said the Iraqis would be armed and will work with the Americans as translators reduce misunderstandings between the American forces and the Iraqi people.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.