2,000 Shiites Protest Jordan's Involvement in Bombing

More than 2,000 Shiites marched Friday through Baghdad and some broke into the Jordanian Embassy (search) and raised the Iraqi flag atop it to protest the alleged involvement of a Jordanian in Iraq's single deadliest suicide bombing — a Feb. 28 attack south of Baghdad that killed 125 people.

The protest came just two days after an influential Shiite leader claimed during Iraq's first National Assembly meeting that Jordan allegedly wasn't doing enough to prevent terrorists from slipping into Iraq.

In another development, Shiite and Kurdish negotiators reportedly have agreed that the National Assembly should reconvene on March 26 to elect a president and his council, officials said.

In Sweden, police said an Iraqi-born Swede kidnapped in Iraq more than a month ago has been released. The family of Minas Ibrahim al-Yousifi (search) said he had been released but did not know whether a ransom was paid.

At least 2,000 protesters converged on the Jordanian Embassy after finishing Friday prayers at three Shiite mosques around Baghdad. They burned Israeli and Jordanian flags and shouted slogans against King Abdullah II.

They chanted: "Take your embassy away! We do not want to see you!" and "There's no God but God, Abdullah is the enemy of God!"

Three men in green camouflage, including one man wearing a black balaclava, were later seen on an embassy roof raising an Iraqi flag on a makeshift flagpole. Another flagpole with a crown that previously held the Jordanian was bare.

Iraqi police and special forces gathered outside the embassy but failed to prevent demonstrators from reaching the building. The demonstrators later dispersed. It was the largest anti-Jordanian demonstration in a week.

Shiites have staged smaller protests in recent days after the Iraqi government on Monday condemned celebrations allegedly held by the family of a Jordanian man suspected of carrying out a terrorist attack that killed 125 people in the city of Hillah. Nearly all the victims were Shiite police and army recruits.

Jordanian government spokeswoman Asma Khader (search) said he country condemned all terrorism and reconfirmed her government's solidarity with the Iraqi people.

"The government condemns strongly any attack against the Iraqi people, in particular the hideous massacre of Hillah which killed scores of innocent people," Khader said. "We have put intensive measures to track those terrorists and there is security coordination with Iraq to protect the borders of both countries."

The protesters anger also seemed to have been fueled by comments late last year by King Abdullah criticizing the rising Shiite power in war-ravaged Iraq.

The Jordanian monarch told The Washington Post in December that Iran was seeking to create "a Shiite crescent" in the Middle East that would include Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. The comments angered Iran and Shiite clerics in Iraq, and the king later said he was not opposed to Shiites.

Shiites make up about 60 percent of Iraq's population of 26 million people, while Sunni Arabs make up about 20 percent of the population.

Arab governments have repeatedly expressed concern that the growing Shiite political power in Iraq would threaten Sunni dominance of the region. Shiites won a majority of seats in Iraq's new parliament elected after Jan. 30 elections.

"In spite of the stubbornness of all Arabs — Shiites are holding their chin up," chanted the protesters.

In Haditha, about 210 kilometers (130 miles) northwest of Baghdad, witnesses said two blasts, believed to be caused by car bombs, hit a U.S. military convoy driving through the town. U.S. officials had no immediate comment.

Near Tikrit, north of Baghdad, a coalition patrol collided Thursday with a civilian vehicle, killing three Iraqis, the military said in a statement.

"The civilian vehicle was in the process of moving off the road when the driver lost control of the vehicle, crossed over the road and collided head on with a civilian contractor vehicle," the military said.

Elsewhere, saboteurs bombed a domestic oil pipeline that links oil field in the northern city of Kirkuk to the main refinery in Beiji, said Iraqi army officer Sa'ad Ahmed Al-Obeidi. The attack in Midhrban, 15 kilometers (10 miles) north of Beiji, sent a huge black cloud of smoke across the sky.

Shiite and Kurdish negotiators reportedly have agreed the National Assembly should reconvene on March 26 to elect a president, officials said Friday.

The latest deal came amid reports that not all Kurds were satisfied with assurances given by the Shiite-dominated United Iraqi alliance over the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and a Kurdish militia.

"There is a preliminary agreement that the next National Assembly session is to be held on March 26 to choose the president, his two vice presidents, and the speaker," said Ali al-Faisal, an alliance deputy and member of the team negotiating with the Kurds.

That date matches one given a day earlier by Azad Jundiyan (search), a spokesman for Jalal Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, who said the government will be named after Kurds celebrate Norwuz, their six-day new year holiday that ends March 26.

Although Iraqis voted on Jan. 30 to elect 275 people to represent them in their first freely elected parliament in recent memory, the Kurds and Shiites that emerged as the country's main power brokers have been unable to form a coalition government.

The interim constitution sets no time limit for forming a government after the National Assembly convenes. But once a president and vice presidents are elected, a prime minister must be chosen within two weeks.

Part of a deal brokered by the alliance and a Kurdish coalition before the National Assembly convened for the first time on March 16 was to elect Talabani president and make conservative Islamic Dawa leader Ibrahim al-Jaafari prime minister. The deal to make Talabani president was also backed by Masoud Barzani (search), head of the Kurdish Democratic Party.

Most of the disagreement has focused on whether to allow the Kurds' peshmerga militia to remain in Kurdistan as part of the Iraqi police and army, along with setting a timetable for Kurds to assume control of Kirkuk and permit the speedy return of nearly 100,000 refugees — conditions included in an interim law that serves as a preliminary constitution.

"Talabani requested for extra time to hold talks with Barzani who is, according to Talabani, not satisfied with the agreements regarding the normalization of the situation in Kirkuk and the distribution of resources and the status of the peshmerga in the Iraqi army," al-Faisal said.