BAGHDAD, Iraq – The Iraqi parliament voted Tuesday to extend a state of emergency for a month, and Britain's foreign secretary emphasized the importance of transferring control of security from the U.S.-led coalition to the Iraqi government.
Meanwhile, the U.S. military command said two Marines and a sailor had been killed in fighting in Iraq's restive Anbar province, raising to eight the number of American troops killed in fighting in Iraq over the past two days.
The state of emergency has been in place for almost two years and covers every region except the autonomous Kurdish region in the north. It grants security forces greater powers such as implementing curfews and making arrests without warrants.
It has been renewed every month since it was first imposed in November 2005, hours before U.S. and Iraqi troops launched a major offensive to drive insurgents out of the city of Fallujah, west of Baghdad.
British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett, on her first trip to Iraq since taking her post in May, met with Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh and discussed the transfer of security control from the U.S.-led coalition to Iraqi authorities.
"There has been responsibility that has been transferred already and we hope and believe that that is a process that will continue," Beckett said. It is "absolutely key that we see that responsibility being able to be exercised by the representatives of the elected government of Iraq."
British forces handed over control of the southern Muthanna province to their Iraqi counterparts in July, and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said another southern province, Dhi Qar, would follow in September.
"I recognize that at the end of the day, security in this country must be a prime responsibility for the Iraqi government and the Iraqi security services," Saleh said.
Handing over control from the coalition to Iraqi authorities is a key part of any eventual drawdown of U.S.-led international troops.
In the past week, a disagreement emerged over the handover of Iraq's armed forces command and a highly anticipated ceremony on Saturday marking the transfer was called off at the last minute.
The two sides still had to complete "some legal and protocol procedures that will lead to a complete understanding between the Iraqi government and the multinational troops," the Defense Ministry said. Neither Iraqi nor U.S. officials would comment further on the nature of the disagreement.
On Monday, Ali al-Dabbagh, spokesman for the prime minister, said in an interview with the BBC that the ceremony would be held on Thursday.
Beckett, whose visit came after two British soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb in southern Iraq on Monday, was to meet with al-Maliki later in the day.
After meeting with the British foreign secretary, Saleh left on a four-day trip to Iran to develop ties and prepare a forthcoming visit to Tehran by al-Maliki, the deputy prime minister's office said. It did not release any details on when al-Maliki would visit Iran.
Iraq's new Shiite leaders have close ties to Tehran, and U.S. officials have encouraged Iraq to have good relations with all of its neighbors, including Iran, despite accusing the Islamic Republic of not doing enough to stop militants from infiltrating Iraq across the nearly 1,000-mile-long porous border.
Since Saddam Hussein's ouster in 2003, Iraq has tried to build closer ties with Iran and heal scars left by the 1980-88 war that killed more than 1 million people on both sides.
In Baghdad, Sunni Arab lawmaker Saleh al-Mutlaq held a conference with the heads of Iraqi tribes and called upon the leader of the Kurds in the north to reconsider their decision to replace the Iraqi flag with the Kurdish one.
The decision by Massoud Barzani, president of the Kurdish region, last week has angered many in Baghdad. The Kurdish region gradually has been gaining more autonomy since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, a worrying development to many Iraqi leaders, especially Sunni Arabs.
The three slain U.S. troops, all assigned to Regimental Combat Team 5, died on Monday "due to enemy action," the military said in a statement. It did not provide any further details. Their identities were not released pending notification of their families.
Anbar province, to the west of Baghdad, is one of the country's most volatile. It includes cities such as Ramadi and Fallujah, part of the so-called Sunni Triangle where the insurgency has been at its worst.
Police found five unidentified blindfolded bodies dumped in Saweria, about 30 miles south of Baghdad. All had been shot in the head and chest and bore signs of torture, said Mamoun Ajeel al-Rubai at the Kut hospital morgue.
In Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, where a series of violent incidents have taken place in recent days, at least eight people were killed, police said.
Gunmen fired on a police patrol, killing three policemen, and two civilians died in separate drive-by shootings, Diyala province police said. Mortar attacks on two areas of a town south of the city killed a total of three people and wounded 21.
In Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad, a car bomb parked near a house exploded, injuring a family of five. When people nearby ran to help the family, another bomb exploded within minutes, killing three people.
In eastern Mosul, about 225 miles northwest of Baghdad, two people were wounded by an explosion in a house about midnight. Police said that when they arrived at the scene, they found weapons including hand grenades, mortar rounds and rocket-propelled grenades.