Clashes broke out around the US base in Ramadi on Wednesday, as British Defence Minister Geoff Hoon arrived in the southern city of Basra to confer with local officials.

Hospital staff said three Iraqis were killed and one wounded in the clashes around the base. It was not known whether they were anti-American fighters.

The roadside bomb wounded two American soldiers and wounded six Iraqi civilians, and no one was killed, said US military spokesman Major Jay Antonelli.

Political message

Hoon was scheduled to meet some of Britain's 9000 soldiers, based around Basra.

Defence Minister Geoff Hoon is to
meet with his country's troops

He also planned to discuss preparations for Iraq's 30 January elections in talks with the governor of Basra, Hasan al-Rashid during his one-day visit, spokesman Major David Bigg said.
 
"His visit is sending a major political message to the Iraqi people and the regional states that a senior British politician is supporting not just the military operations in the country but also the political process and the rebuilding of Iraq as it moves towards the establishment of a new government after the January 30 elections," Gibb said.

AMS member targeted

Also in Basra on Wednesday, Iraqi police and the Iraqi National Guard raided the home of Shaikh Samir al-Rifai, a member of the Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS). Al-Rifai was not at home at the time.

The raid comes in the context of a series of similar actions taken against a number of AMS members in the city.

In Samarra, 95km north of Baghdad, an Iraqi policeman and a child were injured after unknown assailants launched a rocket-propelled grenade attack on a police station on Wednesday, Aljazeera has learned. Other reports indicate that the policeman and child were killed. 

In a separate incident, a US military vehicle was destroyed when a car bomb exploded in al-Sikak neighbourhood of central Samarra.

Elsewhere, Iraqi National Guards (ING) raided al-Imam al-Adham College in al-Adhamiya district north of Baghdad.

The college's guards were detained.