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Eleven more U.S. troops die in Iraq

Spain to withdraw troops 'in the shortest time possible'

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A wave of attacks killed at least 11 U.S. soldiers.

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The U.S. military added 11 more troops to the war's death roster Sunday, bringing to 700 the number of American service members killed since March of last year, 504 of them in combat.

The latest fighting included a fierce engagement Saturday between Marines and insurgents near Iraq's border with Syria.

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, meanwhile, said he will withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq "in the shortest time possible." (Full story)

Zapatero, who was sworn into office Saturday, previously vowed to bring home Spain's 1,400 troops if the United Nations did not have "political and military control" in Iraq by June 30.

U.S. civilian administrator L. Paul Bremer said Sunday that the recent heavy fighting underscored the need for international forces to remain in the country past the June 30 handover of sovereignty to an interim government.

"Events of the past two weeks show that Iraq still faces security threats and needs outside help to deal with them," Bremer said in a statement.

"Early this month, the foes of democracy overran Iraqi police stations and seized public buildings in several parts of the country. Iraqi forces were unable to stop them.

"It is clear that Iraqi forces will not be able, on their own, to deal with these threats by June 30 when an Iraqi government assumes sovereignty," Bremer's statement went on to say.

"Instead, Iraq and troops from many countries, including the United States, will be partners in providing the security Iraqis need."

The U.S. casualties announced Sunday included five Marines killed when a patrol came under attack by insurgents with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades near the town of Husaybah close to the Syrian border, the Marines said.

Reinforcements, backed by helicopters, also came under fire by insurgents operating from near Husaybah's former Baath Party headquarters, the military said.

The fighting continued through the night, the Marines said, pitting their troops against 120 to 150 insurgents. The Marines estimated 25 to 30 insurgents were killed in the attack.

They also reported seeing women and children surrounding mortar positions but could not tell if they were there voluntarily. They said the insurgents fired at medical helicopters carrying wounded Marines from the battlefield.

Elsewhere, three U.S. soldiers were killed Saturday when their 1st Armored Division convoy was ambushed near the southern Iraqi town of Diwaniyah.

Three Iraqi civilians and a member of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's militia, the Mehdi Army, were also killed, Iraqi police in Diwaniyah said.

A ninth American, assigned to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Unit, was killed Saturday in fighting west of Baghdad in the violent Anbar province.

Officials announced two more deaths Sunday. A U.S. soldier was killed and two others injured Saturday when their tank rolled over in north Baghdad, and another soldier died of wounds received Saturday in a roadside bombing.

Najaf, Fallujah relatively calm

Two Iraqi cities that have been centers of fighting between insurgents and U.S.-led coalition troops -- Najaf and Fallujah -- were relatively calm Sunday.

No talks were scheduled about the situation in Fallujah, the city west of Baghdad where fierce fighting dominated the first two weeks of April.

Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Sunday that U.S. forces in Fallujah faced the "worst of the worst" of Iraqi insurgents, who he said use women and children as shields.

Myers said the military sees a "pretty good coordination" in Fallujah between former elements of the Saddam Hussein regime and terrorists possibly coordinated by fugitive al Qaeda suspect Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

"We don't know for sure that he's there, but he's been there before," Myers said on CNN's "Late Edition."

Coalition troops remained deployed outside the Shiite Muslim holy city of Najaf in south-central Iraq, where al-Sadr and his Mehdi Army were holed up.

Minor clashes were reported elsewhere in southern Iraq between al-Sadr supporters and other coalition forces.

Al-Sadr's supporters have been fighting allied troops since the coalition closed their newspaper and arrested one of his deputies in connection with the killing of a rival cleric last year.

The coalition is seeking to capture or kill al-Sadr, who is wanted for questioning in the same killing, but it is feared that military action could spark further violence.

Several parties, including Iranians, are trying to negotiate with al-Sadr.

Myers said al-Sadr "has been marginalized" by other Shiite clerics and that he saw no signs of Sunnis and Shiites uniting against the coalition.

"Right now he has been so marginalized there is not a city under his control," Myers said. "His militia has either melted away, or been either killed or captured."

Al-Sadr's spokesman, Sheikh Qais al-Khazaaly, said Sunday that the cleric was "willing to die in Najaf as his father did."

Al-Sadr's father, Grand Ayatollah Muhammed al-Sadr, and his two older brothers were assassinated by the Saddam regime in 1999.

But, Myers said, al-Sadr's marginalization kept him at bay.

"Why [go in to Najaf] when you don't have to?" he said. "I think Sadr has shown by his statements that he is not only anti-coalition, he is anti-Iraqi. He does not want progress in Iraq."

Myers also said the U.S. authorities were not concerned that Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani -- the most senior Shiite cleric in Iraq -- had rejected the violence of the insurgents as well as that of the coalition.

"He is his own thinker," Myers said. "He is for progress [and] certainly doesn't want a theocracy."

Pope John Paul II called on Iraqi kidnappers Sunday to show "humanity" and free their hostages, including U.S. Army Pfc. Keith Matthew Maupin, 20, a reservist from Batavia, Ohio. (Full story)

New Iraqi military leaders chosen

Amid concerns that Iraq's security forces were inadequate to the task of securing the country, defense minister Ali Allawi announced newly appointed military leaders in his ministry and said the new Iraqi military would eventually number 200,000.

"Iraqi forces will be defensive in nature, composed of volunteers only," Allawi said in Baghdad. "The military will serve their people without religious or sectarian or tribal or political discrimination."

Allawi also said he was confident Iraqi forces would be able to handle "the enemies of Iraq [who] are carrying out aggressive acts to get Iraq back to the old days."

The coalition announced that the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps had captured a suspected anticoalition leader near the northern city of Tikrit early Sunday.

Hakeem Badour Khalaf, the coalition said, has been implicated in the deaths or injuries of at least three people, including two U.S. soldiers and an interpreter.

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