US occupation forces suffer
more casualties

The soldier died when fighters fired rocket-propelled grenade and used small arms fire, according to a statement issued by the US Central Command (Centcom).

 

The injured soldiers were evacuated by helicopter and ambulance to military medical facilities in the area, the statement said.

 

Tikrit is 180 km north of the Iraqi capital.

 

Another soldier was killed and two injured in a vehicle accident about 35 km north of Baghdad on Friday.

 

A Centcom statement said they were providing security escort to personnel of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) ruling Iraq since the fall of the Saddam regime in April.

 

A US Navy engineer also died when unexploded ordnance he was handling exploded, injuring three others on Friday in al-Kut, south of Baghdad.

 

By Tuesday, eight Americans had been killed since 1 May in a  spate of attacks against the occupation forces. Another 30 had died in accidents.

 

Talks resumed

 

The resumption of talks on the political future in Iraq between US-led occupying powers and former exiled groups did not satisfy a main Shia Muslim group, its spokesman said on Saturday.

 

Hamad Bayati of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) said his group would not join an interim political council if it was appointed by the US-led administration.

 

“We will not participate in an administration that would be appointed by ambassador (Paul) Bremer”, Bayati said in reference to the top US civil administrator in Iraq.

 

Bremer is accused of wanting a
puppet government
“This is also a decision taken by all the seven political parties”, he said about the groups that took part in a three-hour meeting with Bremer late on Friday.

 

The meeting aimed at resuming talks on an interim administration with groups that are mainly composed of former exiled opponents to the ousted Iraqi regime.

 

The groups accused the US-led occupying powers of wanting to install a “puppet government”, after the US administrator cancelled a promised national conference last week.

 

Too early for elections

 

None of the other six groups has openly rejected Bremer’s plan to name an interim council to help administer the country.

 

“We said at the meeting that we want an elected political council and an elected constitutional council”, Bayati said.

 

But John Sawers, the top British official in the occupation’s Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) currently ruling Iraq, said the necessary conditions to hold elections were absent.

 

“Everyone recognised last night that there’s simply no climate in this country at the moment for successful elections”, he said.

 

Bayati said, however, that his Iranian-backed group could accept to join the council if the Iraqi parties, not Bremer, named its members.

 

But he said the SCIRI would continue its dialogue with the Americans.

 

A senior official of Masoud Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), which also attended the meeting, said the KDP was not “100 percent satisfied” with Bremer’s plan. He did not elaborate.

 

Arrests target SCIRI

 

Meanwhile, the SCIRI said 20 of its members were arrested by US occupation forces near the border with Iran, where the group was based until the fall of the Iraqi regime.

 

Bayati said that at least “several” of them did not belong to the group’s military wing, the Badr Brigades. 

 

The United States has accused Iran of encouraging Iraq’s majority Shia population to reject the US-led occupation of the country.