BAGHDAD, Iraq – The death toll among coalition forces rose Saturday when three British soldiers were killed in a guerrilla attack in southern Iraq. Also, U.S. troops killed two Iraqi Turkomen who opened fire when soldiers arrived to quell a bloody ethnic clash in the north.
Despite continuing violence, sabotage and terror attacks — including this week's suicide bombing of U.N. headquarters — the American administrator for Iraq said the U.S.-led coalition would not slow efforts to rebuild the country, shattered by war and 13 years of U.N. sanctions.
"We have never hidden the fact that we have security problems in Iraq," L. Paul Bremer (search) told a news conference.
Also in Baghdad, U.N. workers who had not left Iraq after Tuesday's attack resumed work in a cluster of tents set up at the battered Canal Hotel (search) compound, former home of U.N. offices.
Investigators and soldiers searched piles of debris for human remains and clues in the truck bombing that killed at least 23 people, including top U.N. envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello (search), whose memorial was held Saturday in his native Brazil.
One of the envoy's dying wishes was for the United Nations to remain in Iraq and continue work to establish democracy, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan (search) told mourners.
"Let us respect that," Annan said. "Let Sergio, who has given his life in that cause, find a fitting memorial in a free and sovereign Iraq."
Back at work, U.N. staff embraced each other. Computers and office equipment were moved into portable, air-conditioned offices flown in from Italy and set up beside the tents.
"We are moving forward," Ramiro Lopes da Silva said on his first day on the job as acting head of the U.N.'s Iraq mission. The Portuguese diplomat's right hand, forehead and ear were bandaged from the blast.
Bremer said it was too early to speculate on who carried out the bombing.
Addressing reports that he and the Iraqi Governing Council were increasingly at odds, Bremer said there was concern inside the council over the coalition's inability to fully restore electricity, which has angered many Iraqi people. Bremer established the 25-member council as an interim government, though it has little real power.
"They share our frustration with not being able to restore essential services to prewar levels," Bremer said, noting the coalition set an end-of-September goal for getting the lights back on permanently.
Bremer also said he had encouraged the council to reach out to Iraqis to join in the reconstruction and security of their country.
In Basra, the British military said a two-vehicle convoy was attacked by gunmen in a pickup truck as the soldiers traveled through the city center on a patrol about 8:30 a.m.
As of Saturday, the British government has reported 48 deaths since the war began. The American military says 273 U.S. soldiers have died since the beginning of military operations. Denmark's military has reported one death.
On or since May 1, when President Bush declared major combat operations over, 135 U.S. soldiers have died in Iraq, according to the latest military figures. Counting only combat deaths, 65 Americans and 11 Britons have died since the Bush declaration.
In Tuz Kharmato (search), 110 miles north of Baghdad, U.S. soldiers killed two Turkomen tribesmen and wounded two others after the Americans were fired on when they arrived Friday to quell ethnic fighting, said Maj. Josslyn Aberle, 4th Infantry Division spokeswoman. She said it was the first ethnic conflict in the tense region since May.
Capt. David L. Swenson of the 173 Airborne Brigade (search) in Tuz Kharmato told The Associated Press that several hundred Turkomen protesters were on the streets. The fighting reportedly broke out after Kurds destroyed a reopened Turkomen Islamic shrine.
Three Turks and five Kurds were killed and 13 people wounded, Swenson said
Violence continued late Saturday in nearby Kirkuk, where rocket-propelled grenades were fired at statues of two Turkomen heroes as gunfire punctuated the night. There was no indication of who was shooting or any sign of U.S. forces.
Squads of police were stationed at each of the statues after the attacks.
"We're worried about the situation, but we are working with city leaders and officials to resolve it," said Lt. Jonathan Hopkins of the 173rd Airborne Brigade.
Earlier, Kirkuk Mayor Abdul Rahman Mustafa, a Kurd, told the AP two people were killed and several were wounded. He did not identify the victims' by ethnicity.
According to both CNN-Turk television and private NTV television in Ankara, Turkey, hundreds of Turkomen, carrying blue Turkomen flags, marched on the governor's office. Turkey's Anatolia news agency reported two Turkomen were shot and killed and 11 wounded by Patriotic Union of Kurdistan forces.
As the United Nations resumed work Saturday, staff members complained that the U.S.-led coalition had done little to provide security in the area before the bombing.
"It was the coalition's fault, because it was their job to watch the parking area where the bombing happened," said security officer Mohammed Abdul Aziz.
The U.S.-led coalition claims responsibility for security in the country but says it has no obligation to guard specific sites such as the U.N. headquarters and diplomatic missions. U.S. troops are, however, guarding locations such as Iraqi banks and the oil ministry.
But Maj. Mark Johnston said soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division (search) had temporarily taken control of security at the bombed hotel, which became U.N. headquarters in Baghdad after the 1991 Gulf War.
"It's still a dangerous site. We are still in the recovery stage," he said.
Eighty-six seriously wounded U.N. workers were airlifted out for medical care.
Two U.N. employees were still unaccounted for and an unknown number of people — visitors to the building — remained buried in the rubble. The U.N. official death toll was 20, but checks of area hospitals by The Associated Press showed at least 23 died in the blast.