BAGHDAD, Iraq – A car bomb killed at least seven people and wounded 24 on a busy avenue Saturday as Shiite politicians floated a proposal to end the standoff over a new government by having Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari step down – but only if his replacement comes from his own party.
|Latest identification reported by the military of U.S. personnel killed in Iraq:
Army Spc. Andrew Waits, 23, Waterford, Mich.; killed Thursday when a roadside explosive detonated near his vehicle in Baghdad; assigned to the 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky.
The blast occurred at lunchtime outside an east Baghdad restaurant frequented by police officers, four of whom were among the injured, Sgt. Sabah Mohsen said. All the dead were civilians, police said.
The explosion shattered windows and damaged shops over a wide area. Firefighters hosed down the debris-littered street as bystanders gawked at charred and windowless vehicles.
Such violence is adding urgency to talks on forming a government of national unity, a task unsettled four months after parliamentary elections.
Negotiations have stalled over the refusal of Sunni Arab and Kurdish parties to accept al-Jaafari, the Shiite Muslim nominee to head the new government.
U.S. officials have urged the factions to form a government as quickly as possible, seeing that as a vital step toward quelling sectarian violence that threatens to push Iraq into civil war. The U.S. military cannot begin sending its 133,000 soldiers home until the government is in place.
In a bid to break the deadlock, Shiite politicians not affiliated with major parties proposed that al-Jaafari step aside in favor of another candidate from his Dawa party, several Shiite officials said.
It was unclear, however, whether the proposal would be accepted before Monday’s planned parliamentary session. Shiite officials have sent conflicting signals whether they would attend without a deal among all groups on the premiership and other key posts such as president and parliament speaker.
Al-Jaafari issued no public statement Saturday. On Friday, he told Britain’s Channel 4 news that he would not give up the nomination because he was “the legitimate and democratic choice” of the Shiite alliance, a block of seven parties that hold 130 seats in the 275-member assembly.