Thursday’s attack struck on the same spot where two policemen were killed in an attack last week.

Commenting on the latest attack Lt Col Anwar Qadir Ahmad blamed supporters of the former Iraqi regime.

"The attackers were loyalists to Saddam Hussein,” he told French news agency AFP.

Attacks

Also on Thursday, a US convoy came under attack when an explosive device went off in Baqubah, northeast of Baghdad, damaging a US military vehicle, witnesses told Aljazeera’s correspondent in Iraq.

The blast struck at about 7am (0400 GMT) on the outskirts of the village of al-Sada, about 5km (three miles) from Baqubah, "damaging a transport vehicle," in the US convoy, said Ahmad Qadir, 25, a resident of the area.

He said the attack caused "no casualties among US soldiers," who cordoned off the area and started searching neighbouring farms with the help of Iraqi police.

Baqubah, 65km(40 miles) northeast of the Iraqi capital, is a frequent site of anti-US attacks. A US soldier was killed there a week ago by a rocket-propelled grenade.

Pipeline blast

"We will have to get crude from the south, about 60,000 to 70,000 barrels per day, that was being used for exports"

Iraqi oil ministry source

Elsewhere, a major fire broke out, following a bomb blast on an oil pipeline near the al-Haqlaniya area, south of al-Haditha, a city 200km west of Baghdad, witnesses told Aljazeera.

An Iraqi oil ministry source said the new sabotage on the pipeline, which carries crude oil from the northern Kirkuk fields to a refinery and power plant in Baghdad, meant that crude would have to be diverted from Iraq's southern fields, cutting exports.

"There was a sabotage explosion at the pipeline that carries crude from Kirkuk to the Daura refinery and Musayyib power station," the source said. "This means we will have to get crude from the south, about 60,000 to 70,000 barrels per day, that was being used for exports."

The attack may also have serious environmental repercussions as witnesses reported a large amount of oil spilling into the Euphrates near al-Haditha city.

In another incident, Iraqi police forces said they foiled an attempt to blow a main bridge frequently used by US-led coalition troops near Kirkuk, where sabotage against oil and power infrastructure also have become increasingly common.

In Baghdad, two explosions rocked the city centre late on Wednesday near the headquarters of the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority, a spokesman for the CPA said.

Authorities at odds

The latest violence came before planned talks on Thursday between members of the US-installed Governing Council and the CPA to discuss their disagreement over the eventual dispatch of as many as 10,000 Turkish troops to Iraq.

Americans were told by Congressmen Henry Waxman and John Dingell that when an Iraqi fills up his gasoline tanks, US taxpayers subsidise 90% of the purchase.

Iraqi leaders say military involvement by neighbouring countries may interfere with domestic politics and impede the already fragile reconstruction efforts.

US forces on the other hand are keen to get reinforcements as they seek to stabilize the volatile country.

The top US civilian in Iraq, Paul Bremer, insisted on Wednesday that financial support was key to security, and urged the US Congress to approve reconstruction funds in the form of a grant rather than a loan.

The US Congress is currently debating a request by US President, George Bush, for $87 billion dollars to pay for military operations and reconstruction projects in Iraq and Afghanistan of which about $20 billion would go for the rebuilding of Iraq.

Haliburton highwaymen

During a heated exchange in Congress on Wednesday, two Democratic legislators charged that Halliburton, a leading US oil and gas service company with close links to Vice President Richard Cheney, is probably overcharging for petrol it is importing into Iraq.

Americans were told by Congressmen Henry Waxman and John Dingell that when an Iraqi fills up his gasoline tanks, US taxpayers subsidise 90% of the purchase.

Following the war, Halliburton was awarded a multi-billion-dollar exclusive contract to help rebuild the country's dilapidated oil industry and to keep Iraq supplied with fuel.

Under this deal the US government pays Halliburton between $1.62 and $1.70 dollars for each gallon of gasoline it imports into Iraq from Kuwait, according to Waxman and Dingell.

The payments cover the 71-cent-a-gallon wholesale cost of the fuel and a 91-to-99-cent transportation fee charged by the company, which the lawmakers have said is exorbitant and have likened to "highway robbery".