Police said there were no casualties from the Sunday blasts. Ten rockets were fired from a parked car and the attackers fled, police said, adding that they had also found explosives in the car along with two rockets that had not been fired.

The rockets were aimed at buildings in the Green Zone, a heavily fortified area on the west bank of the Tigris river that used to be one of Saddam Hussein's palace complexes and is now the main base of occupying forces in Iraq.

The explosions echoed across Baghdad. The area has been attacked by rockets and mortars several times in recent months.

The al-Rashid hotel was hit on 26 October, when US Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz was staying there, killing an American soldier and wounding 17 others.

No one is currently living in the hotel, although occupying forces still use it for activities.

Red glow and sirens

A red glow illuminated the area and sirens sounded in downtown Baghdad after the rounds hit.

Witnesses said they heard weapons fire and saw flashes shoot through the air.

"I saw about a dozen rockets and I heard a huge explosion," said Muhammad Manhal, a 32-year-old taxi driver.

"The rockets passed over the street from where the old information ministry was. I didn't see where they landed exactly," he said.

"I heard ground-fire then I saw flashes in the air," a US soldier at the scene said.

Sealed off

The Green Zone is sealed off to the public and has been periodically hit by rocket and mortar fire since October. It is one of the most heavily-guarded parts of the city.

The area was last targeted by rebel fire on Wednesday just as the top US official in Iraq, Paul Bremer, was due to speak to the press one day after more than 170 people died in attacks at Shia shrines in Baghdad and Karbala.

Sunday's attack came as Iraqi leaders appeared to have reached a compromise on a new interim constitution and looked likely to sign the much-delayed document on Monday.