Two U.S. Soldiers Killed

A man wearing an explosives belt blew himself up Monday outside the home of two tribal leaders who have cooperated with American forces. Two U.S. soldiers were killed while disposing of explosives in northern Iraq (search).

Three Iraqi guards were seriously wounded in the blast outside the compound of brothers Majid and Amer Ali Suleiman in Ramadi (search), northwest of Baghdad.

Witnesses said the brothers were receiving callers when a man approached the compound but was told to leave. He returned moments later and triggered the explosives, the witnesses said. The brothers are two of the city's most prominent tribal leaders who have worked with coalition forces.

Insurgents have repeatedly warned Iraqis not to cooperate with the Americans. The most recent threats were contained in pamphlets circulated in Ramadi and nearby Fallujah (search) by a purported coalition of 12 insurgent groups.

Ramadi and Fallujah are located in the Sunni Triangle, a major center of resistance to the U.S.-led occupation.

The two American soldiers were killed in an explosion outside Sinjar near the northern city of Mosul during an operation to dispose of ordnance, deputy operations chief Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said.

Five soldiers were hurt in the blast, according to a statement issued by the U.S. military's Task Force Olympia. The statement said the soldiers were moving mortar shells and rocket propelled grenades from a storage area to a demolition point when the explosion occurred.

One of the soldiers was killed instantly. The second soldier died later of his injuries. Three of the injured were hospitalized in stable condition and two others were treated for minor injuries and returned to duty.

The names of the two victims were withheld pending notification of their families.

Elsewhere, U.S. and Iraqi forces deactivated several rockets that were primed for launch along a road toward the city of Baqouba, about 35 miles northeast of Baghdad.

Also Monday, defense officials in Washington said American forces in Iraq have detained one of the remaining most-wanted members of Saddam Hussein's government.

Muhsin Khadr al-Khafaji, No. 48 on the 55 most-wanted list, was turned over last weekend to U.S. troops in the Baghdad area, the officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. The officials did not say who turned him over.

In Baghdad, the U.N. experts met with several Iraqi politicians in a second round of meetings Sunday to discuss the chances of holding early elections, a source of conflict between the United States and the influential Shiite clergy.

Team leader Lakhdar Brahimi met individually with several members of the U.S.-installed Governing Council to "gather facts," said Ahmad Fawzi, the team's spokesman.

The transfer of power is becoming a major headache for the U.S.-led coalition and the Governing Council.

The current U.S. plan is to choose legislators in regional caucuses, a move opposed by the country's most powerful Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani. It is hoped that Brahimi's team, which arrived Saturday on what is believed to be a 10-day mission, will help break the impasse.

Brahimi is expected to travel to the Shiite holy city of Najaf to meet al-Sistani, but no date has been disclosed.

In Samawah, a heavily armored convoy of Japanese soldiers arrived Sunday as part of Tokyo's first military deployment in a hostile region since 1945.

The ground troops, mostly engineers, lead a deployment that will eventually reach about 800 soldiers in a humanitarian mission to improve water supplies and other infrastructure projects around Samawah. Another 200 soldiers will remain in Kuwait.