- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 2, 2005

BAGHDAD — Two car-bomb attacks and clashes killed 12 Iraqi soldiers and two police officers yesterday as talks aimed at forging a coalition government faltered over Kurdish demands, delaying the planned first meeting of Iraq’s new parliament.

Officials meanwhile said the slayings of a lawyer and judge on Iraq’s war-crimes tribunal on Tuesday might have been either because of their position on the court or because they were minority Kurds.

The first of the bombings targeted an Iraqi army base that occupies the former Muthanna airport in central Baghdad, killing eight troops. A second blast, an hour later at an army checkpoint in Doura in southern Baghdad, killed four soldiers, police said. A Defense Ministry official said the attacks wounded 39 soldiers. Also in Doura, two policemen were killed and five were injured in clashes with militants.

In a statement posted on the Internet, al Qaeda in Iraq took responsibility for the Muthanna airport attack, saying it was a “martyrdom” operation.

Shi’ite and Kurdish leaders, Iraq’s new political powers, failed to reach agreement after two days of negotiations in the northern city of Irbil, with the clergy-backed candidate for prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, leaving with only half the deal that he needed.

The Shi’ite-led United Iraqi Alliance, which has 140 seats in the 275-member National Assembly, hopes to win backing from the 75 seats held by Kurdish political parties so it can muster the required two-thirds majority for top posts in the new government.

Mr. al-Jaafari indicated after the talks that the alliance was ready to accept a Kurdish demand that one of its leaders, Jalal Talabani, become president. However, he would not commit to other demands, including the expansion of Kurdish autonomous areas south to the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.

Politicians had hoped to convene the new parliament by Sunday. But Ali Faisal of the Shi’ite Political Council said that the meeting had been “postponed” and that a new date had not been set.

The two slain men in Baghdad were Judge Barwez Mohammed Mahmoud al-Merwani and his son, lawyer Aryan Barwez al-Merwani, a member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party, according to another of the judge’s sons, Kikawz Barwez Mohammed al-Merwani. He said assailants in a speeding car raked the pair with gunfire as they were trying to get into a vehicle outside their home. Police Capt. Ali al-Obeidi said three gunmen were in a green Opel.

The shootings in northern Baghdad’s Azamiyah district marked the first time that any legal staff working for the Iraqi Special Tribunal have been killed.

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