- The Washington Times - Monday, February 26, 2007

From combined dispatches

BAGHDAD — Terrorists wounded Iraq’s Shi’ite vice president and a Shi’ite Cabinet minister in a bomb attack in an upscale Baghdad neighborhood yesterday, and U.S. military officers said they had discovered a factory for assembling sophisticated roadside bombs from Iranian-made components in a province north of the capital.

The officers, who displayed weapons for reporters at a U.S. base in the capital, said the find provides more evidence that the Iranians are providing weapons used to kill Americans.

They include EFPs — explosively formed projectiles — that fire a slug of molten metal capable of penetrating armored vehicles and have been blamed for killing more than 170 U.S. and coalition soldiers since 2004.

“This is a significant amount,” said Capt. Clayton Combs, the commander of the company that found the cache in the volatile Diyala province. “Before we have found one or two EFPs at the most, and those are usually at the site of deployment. This is the first cache … that has actually been found as far as a production facility.”

In the Baghdad bombing, at least 10 persons were killed and 31 wounded, including Public Works Minister Riad Ghareeb, who was in serious condition, and Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi, who was knocked down by the blast while giving a speech. He suffered bruises and light shrapnel wounds.

The attack demonstrated the ability of suspected Sunni militants to strike anywhere despite the security crackdown across the capital. Hours before the blast, U.S. military teams with bomb-sniffing dogs combed the building, said workers at the site.

Mr. Abdul-Mahdi is one of two vice presidents. The other, Tariq al-Hashemi, is Sunni.

In Anbar province west of the capital, a suicide bomber in a stolen ambulance exploded near a police station in Ramadi, killing at least 14 persons and wounding 10, police said. It was the second bombing in less than a week in the volatile province of Anbar, which like many areas outside Baghdad has seen increased violence as U.S. and Iraqi forces crack down in the capital.

Separately, the Cabinet endorsed a draft oil law crucial to regulating how wealth from Iraq’s vast reserves would be shared by its ethnic and sectarian groups, a move hailed by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as a “pillar for the unity of Iraqis.”

Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih said that Iraq’s leaders had pledged to have the law enacted by the end of May after it is approved by parliament.

Speaking later to reporters, Mr. al-Maliki said: “The benefits of this wealth will form a firm pillar for the unity of Iraqis and consolidate their social structure.”

Meanwhile, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani was in stable condition in a hospital in Amman, Jordan, yesterday, recuperating from exhaustion and lung inflammation, Iraqi officials said.

Mr. Talabani, 73, fell ill Sunday and was unconscious when he was rushed to a hospital in Sulaimaniyah, his hometown in northeastern Iraq. He was then flown to neighboring Jordan for extensive examination.

“He lost fluids, but his heart is very well, and there’s no need for him to be flown anywhere, whether the United States or elsewhere, for further treatment,” Saad al-Hayyani, the Iraqi ambassador to Jordan, said after he visited Mr. Talabani at the King Hussein Medical City.

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