- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 14, 2006

BAGHDAD — A pair of suicide car bombers killed 14 persons yesterday in the biggest assault in months on the main road to Baghdad’s airport, while attacks elsewhere in the capital killed a dozen Iraqis and two American soldiers.

A weekend of violence across Iraq, which included six attacks on small Shi’ite Muslim shrines and the bombing deaths of two British soldiers near Basra late Saturday, came as politicians again failed to agree on a new Cabinet.

There had been hope that Prime Minister-designate Nouri al-Maliki would fill at least some Cabinet posts when parliament convened yesterday in Baghdad’s heavily guarded Green Zone, perhaps even taking on for himself contentious posts such as interior and defense minister.

Mr. al-Maliki’s mandate to form a Cabinet expires next Monday. Should he fail to do so, President Jalal Talabani would have 15 days to name a new nominee to try to form a Cabinet. The constitution is not clear on whether he could pick Mr. al-Maliki again.

As the 275-member parliament convened, a party loyal to Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr threatened to propose its own Cabinet list if other groups did not scale back demands for roles in the new government.

Legislator Bahaa al-Araji of the United Iraqi Alliance denounced what he called U.S. meddling in the talks and set a deadline of two days to settle the matter. But the Shi’ite bloc has 130 parliament members, which isn’t enough votes to seat a Cabinet.

A coalition of three Sunni Arab parties holding 44 seats warned that it would withdraw from the political process if it did not get at least one key post, such as that of defense minister.

A Shi’ite party with 15 lawmakers pulled out of the Cabinet talks several days ago because it was not given the Oil Ministry.

Baghdad’s deadliest attack yesterday involved the twin suicide car bombings near a main checkpoint on a four-lane road leading to the international airport. The blasts killed at least 14 Iraqis and wounded six.

Attacks on the airport road had decreased since last year because of increased security along the 6-mile thoroughfare — often considered the most dangerous road in the world.

Twelve other Iraqis were killed in Baghdad by four roadside bombs, three that targeted Iraqi police patrols and one that exploded in an open market. At least 10 persons were killed in the city Saturday.

The weekend also saw attacks on a string of Shi’ite Muslim shrines east of Baqouba, capital of the religiously mixed Diyala province 35 miles northeast of Baghdad that has been a flash point of sectarian violence.

“These shrines are not only visited by Shi’ite Muslims, because they are not only Shi’ite imams but they are imams for all Muslims,” Diyala Gov. Ra’d Rashid al-Mulla Jawad said.

He said the shrines, often the size of a room or smaller, had “no protection because they are simple ones that some people use as graveyards.”

The U.S. command said a roadside bomb last night killed two American soldiers in eastern Baghdad. The military gave no other details on the deaths.

Late Saturday, a roadside bomb killed two British soldiers and wounded one as they patrolled in an armored vehicle near the southern city of Basra, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said. A total of 111 British military personnel have died.

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