Powell arrived via Kuwait after an inconclusive meeting in Geneva over the future power structure of Iraq, with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and the foreign ministers of the other permanent members of the UN Security Council.

Speaking to reporters in Baghdad after talks with Iraq's new foreign minister, Hoshiyar Zabary, Powell said he hoped the occupied country could have a sovereign, elected government by mid or end of next year.

"Definitely this depends on the security environment we are in," he said. "But we hope by mid-2004 or before the end of the year, we will be able to have a sovereign, Iraqi, elected,
legitimate government in place."

The French government has openly disagreed with that time frame, saying it believes Iraqis could be in control of Iraq within a month.

But the US blames the "challenging security situation" for the need for occupation troops to stay in Iraq.

"The major new threats are the terrorists who are trying to infiltrate into the country for the purpose of disrupting this very hopeful process (of bringing democracy to Iraq) and we will not allow that to happen"

Colin Powell,
US Secretary of State

General lawlessness has led to resentment towards occupation troops in Iraq. This has been comounded by frustration at a lack of basic services such as electricity and water and an ever-worsening security situation.

Looting has not let up, there are no courts in which to try criminals and unemployment in the lawless and war-ravaged country of 25 million stands at about 70%.

Soldier killed

Daily resistance attacks against occupation soldiers are damaging morale and prompting unease among US policymakers.

In the latest wave on Sunday, a US soldier was killed and four injured in a homemade bomb attack in Fallujah, while three more were wounded in Mosul when they came under rocket fire.

The US military confirmed that one of its soldiers had died in Sunday's Fallujah attack, which came a day after the funerals of nine Iraqi security personnel gunned down in a "friendly fire" incident in the town involving US troops.

The US soldiers were hit by an "improvised explosive device", witnesses said. A helicopter attempted to land to evacuate the wounded to a nearby hospital after the blast, but turned back after it was targeted by a rocket, one witness said.

An AFP correspondent reported seeing one of the wounded soldiers carried out of the area by other troops after the attack which the witnesses said occurred at 8.15am (0415 GMT) at the entrance to Fallujah, 50km west of the Iraqi capital.

Baquba attack

In another attack on Sunday, eyewitnesses told Aljazeera a US military vehicle was hit by an explosive device in the town of Baquba northeast of Baghdad.

Occupation forces standing in
front of a cemetery of Iraqi tanks

No casualties were reported.

But three soldiers were injured in an attack in Mosul on Saturday evening.

The three were all from the 101st Airborne Division according to US Captain Jeff Fitzgibbons. Mosul lies 400km north of Baghdad.
 
Fitzgibbons did not detail the injuries or give any further information about the attack.

But the US is blaming foreign Islamic fighters for the attacks against occupation troops.

"The major new threats are the terrorists who are trying to infiltrate into the country for the purpose of disrupting this very hopeful process (of bringing democracy to Iraq) and we will not allow that to happen," Powell told reporters.