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U.S., Iraqi Troops Battle Dozens of Insurgents
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Two American soldiers and one Iraqiwere killed as U.S. and Iraqi forces battled dozens ofinsurgents in a remote area east of Baghdad, the U.S. militarysaid on Tuesday.
The battle erupted on Monday afternoon when two Iraqi armybattalions were carrying out a "cordon and search operation" inthe easterly Diyala province, it said in a statement.
"The mission to search for weapons cache sites in the areauncovered dozens of terrorists and a firefight ensued."
Around 100 U.S. troops with Bradley fighting vehicles movedin to back up the Iraqi forces, and called in air support. Thearea was still being searched on Tuesday, the U.S. army said.
"There were two to three dozen insurgents there, withevidence of prepared fighting positions," Major RichardGoldenberg, spokesman for the 42nd Infantry Division, said.
Recent weeks have seen a number of large-scale engagementsbetween U.S. troops and guerrillas -- an unusual development asinsurgents generally favor hit-and-run attacks.
On Saturday, more than 40 U.S. soldiers and 12 prisonerswere wounded when insurgents attacked Abu Ghraib jail west ofBaghdad with suicide bombs, mortars and small-arms fire. Thebattle raged for around an hour.
Last month scores of guerrillas attacked a U.S. convoy nearSalman Pak southeast of Baghdad. The U.S. military said itkilled at least two dozen insurgents.
More than 1,160 U.S. troops have died in action since theMarch 2003 invasion, most of them at the hands of insurgents.Over the same period, around 6,000 Iraqi civilians have beenkilled in the insurgency, Iraq's human rights minister said.
In other violence on Tuesday a U.S. soldier was killed andfour were wounded by a roadside bomb in Baghdad.
Roadside bombs also killed four civilians in Salman Pak andtwo policemen in the southern city of Basra, police said. A carbomb in southwest Baghdad killed an Iraqi civilian.
In Hilla, south of Baghdad, a local government official wasassassinated on his way to work, police said.
The commander of a special armored unit of the Iraqi army,Brigadier General Jalal Mohammed Saleh, was kidnapped inBaghdad late on Monday, police said. Insurgents have kidnappedseveral leading Iraqi officials and military officers, andoften kill them and post footage of their deaths on theInternet.
Iraqi security officials say the delay in forming a newgovernment has benefited insurgents trying to sow chaos inIraq.
More than nine weeks after millions of Iraqis defiedsuicide bombers and insurgent threats to vote in the historicelection on Jan. 30, politicians are still arguing over cabinetposts.
Leaders of the main political blocs said Iraq's newpresident, two vice presidents and the prime minister should beannounced on Wednesday at a meeting of parliament.
Under a deal between the Islamist-led Shi'ite alliance thatwon a slim majority in parliament and the Kurdish coalitionthat came second, veteran Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani will benamed president and the Shi'ite Ibrahim Jaafari will becomeprime minister.
Adel Abdul Mahdi, another Shi'ite, is expected to be namedas one of the vice presidents. Politicians want to appoint aSunni Arab as the other so as to include the minority thatdominated Iraq under Saddam Hussein but won just 17 ofparliament's 275 seats in the polls.
Political sources said there would be a vote to choosebetween two Sunni candidates -- Ghazi al-Yawar, the currentinterim president, and Adnan Pachachi, an elder statesman.Yawar is likely to come out on top, the sources said.
Many Sunni Arabs were afraid to vote or boycotted theelection, but other factions want to ensure they are given keygovernment posts to try to undermine support for theinsurgency, which is being fought mainly by Sunni Arabguerrillas.
Once a prime minister is chosen he has two weeks to name acabinet. Officials say key disagreements remain on somegovernment posts, particularly the economically crucial oilministry, coveted by both Shi'ites and Kurds.
(Additional reporting by Abdel Razzak Hameed in Basra andMariam Karouny and Luke Baker in Baghdad)