Baath Party Suspect Arrested; Three Americans Killed in Separate Attacks

U.S. troops arrested a suspected former Baath Party (search) official in northern Iraq, officials said Thursday, and three American soldiers were killed in separate attacks as the U.S.-led coalition faced an increasingly sophisticated resistance movement.

Late Wednesday, a soldier from the 1st Armored Division (search) was shot and killed while on patrol in the al-Mansour district of western Baghdad, the U.S. command said.

A female soldier from the 4th Infantry Division (search) also died Wednesday when a roadside bomb exploded about 300 yards from the main U.S. base in Tikrit (search), Saddam's hometown. Two other soldiers were wounded in the blast. U.S. troops in Tikrit fired mortars overnight into empty fields near the base in a show of force.

Another soldier from the 4th Infantry Division died following a rocket-propelled grenade attack on an American convoy Wednesday near Samara, about 60 miles north of the Iraqi capital, according to the military.

The latest casualties -- names were withheld pending notification of relatives -- bring to 90 the number of American soldiers to die by hostile fire in Iraq since President Bush declared an end to major combat operations on May 1. A total of 314 American service members have died since the war started on March 20, according to the Department of Defense.

U.S. officials have warned that coalition forces are facing more sophisticated attacks by a determined resistance centered in Sunni Muslim areas to the north and west of Baghdad.

In Tikrit, the military said Thursday that the Baath Party official was arrested overnight near Baqouba. His name was not released, but the military said he was believed to have been helping Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, a longtime Saddam confidant and one of the most senior members of the former regime still at large.

Al-Douri, a Revolutionary Command Council vice chairman, is No. 6 on the most-wanted list of 55 regime officials. His daughter was married to Saddam's son, Odai, who was killed with his brother, Qusai, in a U.S.-led attack in July.

Meanwhile, troops of the 4th Infantry Division killed one Iraqi and wounded another after assailants fired rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire at a U.S. patrol near Balad, division spokeswoman Maj. Josslyn Aberle said.

American soldiers also fired warning shots over the heads of stone-throwing Shiite Muslims protesting the brief detention of their preacher on Wednesday outside the Ali Kazem al-Bayai mosque in southwestern Baghdad.

The Shiites, who said the cleric was questioned about allegedly inflammatory sermons, warned they would turn against the U.S. occupation if they did not receive a written apology from the Americans and Iraqi police within three days.

As an American patrol drove up to the mosque, protesters began hurling stones at the vehicles. A soldier fired a few warning shots to disperse the pursuing crowd as the patrol drove away. Some members of the mosque security force returned fire but no injuries were reported.

Shiites, the majority of Iraq's 25 million people, have been generally more accepting of the U.S. occupation than Sunnis, the foundation of the former regime. Many Shiites opposed Saddam because of his bloody crackdown on a Shiite uprising after Iraq's defeat in the 1991 Gulf War.

In New York, U.S. diplomats circulated a new draft U.N. Security Council resolution calling for a strengthened U.N. role in rebuilding Iraq. The draft, however, provided no timetable for a handover of authority to Iraqis, according to a copy of the document obtained by The Associated Press.

The new measure underscores that the American-led occupation is temporary and urges Iraqis to determine a date for a transfer of power. "The day when Iraqis govern themselves must come quickly," it says. It would transform the U.S.-led coalition force into a multinational force with the United States retaining command.

It spells out that the force will ensure "necessary conditions" for adopting a constitution and holding elections. It also says the troops will protect U.N. offices, the U.S.-appointed Iraqi interim government and other key institutions.

The draft also repeats a call to the 191 U.N. member states to contribute military forces and to increase financial aid.

The U.S. decision to give the United Nations a larger role in Iraq's reconstruction, and to make clear that the United States had no intention of a long-term occupation, was designed to attract the support of France, Germany, Russia and other skeptical countries in the Security Council.

There was no immediate reaction, though one council diplomat said the sense was that Russia and China thought the resolution moved in the right direction.