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American, 16 Iraqis killed in bombing


BAGHDAD - A suicide bomb aimed at a U.S. military convoy tore through a busy downtown square yesterday, killing an American soldier and at least six Iraqis and injuring scores of people. Assassins also gunned down 10 city police officers in five neighborhoods during a one-hour period.

Across the country, a total of at least 22 Iraqis were killed in acts of violence as Iraqi political leaders continued their meetings on the drafting of the new national constitution.

Insurgents killed a police officer in Baqubah and attacked a minivan of pilgrims traveling to Iran, killing three of them, according to local police. A judge in Kirkuk narrowly escaped an assassination attempt, and a mortar shell that exploded in the troubled Dora neighborhood of Baghdad killed two people and injured four, according to police reports.

The U.S. military also announced yesterday that a U.S. Marine had been killed a day earlier in Anbar province.

At least 39 Americans and 124 Iraqis have been killed by insurgents over the past two weeks.

U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, meanwhile, said one of the more divisive ideas floated during discussions of the new constitutional, a referendum on independence for Kurdistan, had been ruled out.

Speaking at a news conference, Khalilzad said the Kurds had decided to be "part of Iraq," in effect signaling that there would be no referendum.

Previously, some Kurdish politicians had said they wanted a clause in the constitution allowing the region of northern Iraq to hold a vote on independence within eight years. The idea of Kurdistan seceding from the rest of the country is unacceptable to most non-Kurdish Iraqis.

Leaders of the key political parties in the transitional National Assembly met yesterday as part of their continuing effort to resolve differences on crucial aspects of the constitution. In the evening, a broader group that included parties without representatives in the legislature joined them.

The talks are expected to continue up to Monday's deadline for sending a draft of the constitution to the National Assembly for its consideration. Under the timetable set out in the Transitional Administrative Law, which most of these same leaders signed last year, if the assembly approves the constitution, a nationwide referendum on the document would be held Oct. 15 and new national elections would occur in mid-December.

The transitional government has missed a number of deadlines in the past, and it was not yet clear whether it will meet next week's goal.

The most difficult issues are how to split power between the central government and the provinces, and how to divide oil revenues. At this point, the groups are still trading proposals with less than a week to go.

Sandstorms have added to the delays, forcing negotiators to cancel meeting Monday and limiting attendance yesterday.

Sunni Muslims, who ruled Iraq under former President Saddam Hussein, worry that if other provinces are permitted to form semiautonomous regions, as the three Kurdish provinces have, then predominantly Shiite Muslim southern Iraq might form a region that would join Iran. The Shiites want to form semiautonomous regions and argue that they should not get less than the Kurds.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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