The latest death, which happened on Friday, was only confirmed 24 hours later by a US military spokesman who declined to give further details, or the location, of the shooting.

In another incident, the US military information centre in the northern Iraqi town of Mosul came under rocket propelled grenade attack, according to eye-witness accounts.

Two rockets were also fired at US headquarters in the city centre, damaging the building. Occupation soldiers closed roads and launched search operations in the local area.

Anti-US sentiment in the war-ravaged country has been running high with many Iraqis accusing the US occupation administration of failing to provide basic services or security.

Yesterday, at least two Iraqi imams told thousands of worshippers during Friday prayers to resist the American occupation.

UN assistance

The latest incidents come as the US considers asking United Nations’ member countries to commit troops to and share the costs of peace keeping activities in, near lawless, Iraq.

So far, few countries have been willing to bear this burden. 

“There are a broader range of questions to be settled before there is a basis for countries like India or France to join the operation,” Jeremy Greenstock, Britain’s ambassador to the UN, told reporters last night.

If the US does indeed ask other countries for assistance, their “coalition of the willing” will indeed be shown to be narrow, Reuters cited unidentified diplomats as saying.

“We’ve got to get around the problem that we are the occupying power, and people don’t want to join the occupying powers,” Greenstock added.

The UN, after being bypassed by both Britain and the US in the run-up to the war, has said it is unwilling to contribute a “blue-helmet” peace keeping force, like those used to calm tensions in Kosovo, or Sierra Leone.

France, Germany and Russia 

Still, France, Germany and Russia have all said they will provide assistance to either peacekeeping or to the reconstruction of Iraq if Iraqis are given more responsibility for running their own affairs.

“For us, the main condition is that the central role of UN is recognised,” French Foreign Minister Domenique de Villepin told a news conference in Mexico City. “If there is this recognition, then we can certainly analyse, imagine some participation, but it has to be truly UN.”

France, Russia and Germany all opposed the war on Iraq, saying that UN weapons inspector Hans Blix had not been given enough time to carry out his search for weapons of mass destruction.

Niger and nuclear materials

Separately, the ongoing dispute over inteligence backing the US claim that Iraq was trying to secure uranium from Niger, raged.

An Italian journalist, working on the weekly documentary Panorama, claimed she received information from an undisclosed source showing Iraq was in the process of bidding for nuclear materials from the impoverished West African nation.

In an interview with the Italian national Corriere della Sera, Elisabetta Burba, said she was unable to verify the information after making enquiries so handed the documents to the US Embassy in October 2002.

The US government, which said its intelligence came from a "non-governmental source in Rome" has admitted the claim should never have been included in President George Bush's State of the Union adress in January.  

The British government said it stood by the claim as its intelligence services had additional supporting information.

Alert

The US military had put its forces on high alert last week in preparation for more resistance operations to coincide with the anniversary of Saddam Hussein’s Baathist party’s accession to power in 1968.

Currently, there are about 230,000 US troops serving in and around Iraq, including nearly 150,000 inside Iraq and 12,000 from Britain and other countries.

On Wednesday, US Central Command chief, General John Abizaid conceded that his troops in Iraq were facing guerrilla war.