Suicide bomber kills 12 in Iraq

Published February 25, 2005

BAGHDAD, Feb 24: A suicide car bomber killed 12 people on Thursday, underlining Iraq's dire security challenges, while a Kurdish politician spelt out demands that could complicate the formation of the country's new government.

A man dressed in a police uniform drove his car into the police headquarters in Saddam Hussein's home town of Tikrit and detonated the vehicle during a change of shift, police said. The attack wounded 35, hospital officials said.

Meanwhile Nechirvan Barzani, prime minister of the Kurdish regional government, outlined a tough negotiating position which, if backed by the Kurdish leadership, could hamstring the complex process of forging a unified government.

Barzani said the Kurds - who came second in the election and whose support is needed to form a government - would support whoever backed their demands to take back disputed territories, indicating that could include oil-rich Kirkuk.

"There are certain principles we are focusing on," Barzani told Reuters in a telephone interview from Arbil on Wednesday, "including the right of the Kurdish people to recover areas which have been Arabised in the past. Whoever is ready to agree with this, the Kurds are ready to make an alliance."

Barzani does not head either main Kurdish party and the extent of support for his stance was not clear. Other senior Kurdish figures have said their first priority is to form a government and contentious issues like Kirkuk will be dealt with at a later stage.

Whenever the government is finally agreed - and some observers believe it could take weeks - the profound security challenges it will face were highlighted by Thursday's bombing.

Around a dozen cars were destroyed by the explosion, one of a series of shootings, bombings and mortar attacks around the country. In Kirkuk, two Iraqi policemen were killed and two critically wounded in a roadside bomb blast. Four Iraqi soldiers were also killed when gunmen attacked their patrol in Qaim, near the Syrian border in western Iraq.

Two US soldiers were killed and two wounded in separate roadside bomb blasts north of the capital, while another bomb blast near a police patrol killed four people, including two policemen, in the town of Iskandariya, south of Baghdad.

The widespread violence came as politicians held more talks in Baghdad to try to strike a deal on forming a new government. Two men, Shia leader Dr Ibrahim al-Jaafari and interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, a secular Shia, are in the running to be premier of the first democratically elected Iraqi government in more than 50 years. -Reuters

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