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Iraq parliament ousts speaker for rude behavior

The Baltimore Sun

BAGHDAD -- Iraq's parliamentarians, under pressure from Washington to prove political progress that might expedite an end to the war, demonstrated yesterday their determination to take up issues important to them: They voted to oust their speaker for rude behavior.

Declaring the speaker's latest outburst the final straw, the Shiite-led body decided to request that Mahmoud Mashadani, a Sunni, be ousted. The move will not affect the balance of power in the lawmaking body, which requires that he be replaced by another Sunni. But it pointed up again the parliament's focus on internal squabbles rather than on national laws deemed crucial to bringing stability to Iraq.

As lawmakers gathered in a closed session to debate Mashadani's behavior, which has included slapping a fellow lawmaker and cursing him on the floor of parliament, the U.S. military said that violence had cost the lives of three Americans and destroyed a major piece of infrastructure.

In addition, at least 17 Iraqis were found dead across the capital, police said, and the man expected to be Britain's next prime minister made an unannounced visit.

Three U.S. soldiers died when a suicide bomber blew himself up beneath a highway overpass on which a U.S. checkpoint was stationed south of Baghdad, the military said. The attack occurred Sunday night, and the deaths were announced yesterday.

North of Baghdad in Diyala province, insurgents blew up a strategic bridge yesterday in the provincial capital, Baqouba. There were no immediate casualties reported in the attack, which targeted a bridge used by U.S. and other foreign troops in the city.

The United Nations delivered a dismal report on the status of the U.S.-led effort to quell Iraq's violence by putting tens of thousands of additional soldiers in Baghdad and neighboring areas, including Diyala.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon said the troop escalation had fallen short of its goals to protect civilians, reign in militia fighters or quell sectarian warfare. He singled out increasing mortar and rocket attacks on the heavily fortified Green Zone, where the U.S. Embassy, Iraqi parliament and many government installations are based, as a sign of how things are worsening.

Meanwhile, British Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown met with Iraqi leaders in an unannounced visit. Brown, slated to succeed Prime Minister Tony Blair this month, has vowed to study his country's participation in the Iraq war in the face of growing opposition at home. Brown was on a one-day fact-finding mission, British officials said.

The Iraqi parliament's decision to oust Mashadani came a day after a lawmaker from the leading Shiite bloc accused the speaker's guards of insulting and assaulting him during a disagreement.

Members of Mashadani's own Tawafuk bloc did not object to offering up a replacement within a week. "We do not want this issue to assume a political dimension, and we do not want it to spread to the Iraqi street or to create a crisis," said Tawafuk member Saleem Abdullah Juboori.

He said Mashadani, who was on holiday, would retain his seat in the 275-member parliament.

Tina Susman writes for the Los Angeles Times. The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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