Iraq Violence Kills 34, Including One U.S. Soldier

Violence killed at least 34 people including a U.S. soldier as efforts to finish choosing the new Cabinet bogged down Monday in a web of conflicting interests.

The deadliest attack Monday occurred when a car bomb exploded near an Iraqi court in central Baghdad, killing five Iraqi civilians and wounding 10, police Lt. Col. Falah al-Mohammedawi said.

Two Iraqi policemen died and 12 people were wounded when another car bomb went off near a police patrol traveling down busy Palestine Street in eastern Baghdad, police Lt. Ahmed Qassim said.

The American soldier was killed when a roadside bomb struck a military convoy Monday southeast of Baghdad, according to a U.S. statement. The command did not specify the location, but Iraqi police reported a bombing damaged a U.S. convoy between the Shiite holy cities of Karbala and Najaf.

CountryWatch: Iraq

In a separate statement, the U.S. command said one American soldier was killed and another wounded during a clash Sunday near Tal Afar, 260 miles northwest of Baghdad.

The fatalities raised to at least 2,421 the number of U.S. military members who have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

At least 33 American troops have been killed since April 22, when the new Iraqi government began to take shape with the selection of top leaders and the appointment of Nouri al-Maliki as prime minister-designate.

Al-Maliki, a Shiite, had hoped to complete the selection of his Cabinet on Tuesday or Wednesday. That would mark the final step in the establishment of the new government of national unity, which U.S. officials hope can calm sectarian tensions, lure Sunni Arabs from the insurgency and enable American troops to go home.

However, key Shiite and Sunni lawmakers told The Associated Press Monday that it was unlikely al-Maliki would finish the task this week because of the need to balance the interests of the religiously and ethnically based parties.

Late Monday, Shiite lawmaker Bahaa al-Din al-Araji told the AP that the parties had agreed broadly on what factions would get specific posts. But they have yet to decide on the candidates to assume those positions.

Speaking about the prospects for Iraqi national unity, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Monday that the U.S. government is not looking "at how hard they're working to hang together, because they literally will hang separately or hang together, literally. There's no stronger incentive to get it right than the incentives that they have."

The main stumbling block is the choice to head the Interior Ministry, which controls the police, and the Defense Ministry, which runs the army. U.S. and British officials have insisted those posts go to people without ties to sectarian militias, responsible for many of the tit-for-tat killings of Sunnis and Shiites.

Several lawmakers said the Shiite alliance and the Sunni bloc were searching for candidates with enough independence to satisfy the Americans and the British, but who would also be acceptable to the Iraqi parties.

One lawmaker said outgoing Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Chalabi, a former Pentagon favorite, had been mentioned to head the Interior Ministry. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the talks are secret, acknowledged that Chalabi was a long shot.

Chalabi, a secular Shiite, had once been Washington's choice to replace Saddam Hussein, but he fell from favor after the U.S.-led invasion and failed to win a parliament seat in the Dec. 15 election.

But Chalabi has proven one of the most resilient figures in Iraqi politics and has forged ties not only with radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr but with some Sunni groups as well.

Sunni Arabs have been pushing hard for one of the seven top ministries, which include interior and defense. Sunnis hold only 55 of the 275 parliament seats, compared with 130 for the Shiites.

"In reality, the situation is being dictated by the Americans on the basis of electoral results, not the national interest," Sunni politician Khalaf al-Ilyan said. "The distribution (of posts) is based on sects, Sunni, Kurdish, Shiite."

As the politicians haggled, bloodshed continued.

Two employees of an Iraqi television station were found dead Monday, a day after they were stopped by men wearing police uniforms on a road southwest of Baghdad, according to Abdul-Karim al-Mehdawi, general manager of Al-Nahrain TV. The bodies of journalist Laith al-Dulaimi and telephone operator Muazaz Ahmed were taken to a morgue in Kut.

At least 69 journalists have been killed in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. About three-fourths of them were Iraqis.

At least 19 other bodies were found Monday, including 12 in Baghdad and seven in Kut, according to police. They appeared to have been victims of sectarian death squads.

In other violence Monday:

• Gunmen stopped a bus carrying Higher Education Ministry employees to work in western Baghdad, killing the driver and wounding a guard, police Capt. Jamil Hussein said.

• Two gunmen were killed in a clash with Iraqi soldiers in Baghdad's Dora neighborhood.

• One person was killed and another wounded in a drive-by shooting in a west Baghdad market.

• A pharmacist was killed in Mosul by gunmen who set fire to his drug store.