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Bush praises Iraqi interim government

Separate blasts kill 14, including 3 near 'Green Zone'

Members of the new Iraqi interim government are introduced at a ceremony Tuesday in Baghdad.
The people selected to Iraq's new interim government.
Car bomb explodes as interim Iraqi president named.

Firefight erupts in Kufa between U.S. troops, insurgents.
• Interactive: Who's who in Iraq
• Interactive: Sectarian divide
Unrest, Conflicts and War
Armed Conflict

(CNN) -- President Bush on Tuesday praised the naming of a new Iraqi interim government, saying it brings Iraq closer to "a fully sovereign nation."

But in Iraq the violence continued with two car bombs killing 14 people, and ongoing fighting in Kufa.

Speaking in the White House Rose Garden, Bush said members of the interim government have "the talent, the commitment and the resolve to guide Iraq through the challenges that lie ahead."

"This is a very hopeful day for the Iraqi people and the American people," he said. "It's going to send a clear signal that terrorists can't win."

The U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council dissolved itself Tuesday after the announcement of an interim president and other new government positions.

The council's role had been advisory to the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority, which will retain sovereignty until June 30 and then disband.

The caretaker government will be in charge after the political handover until national elections are held in January.

U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi announced Tuesday that Sheikh Ghazi al-Yawar had been appointed interim president, a largely ceremonial role.

Prime Minister-designate Iyad Allawi, who was appointed last week, named members of the new Cabinet. (Full story)

Former Iraqi Foreign Minister Adnan Pachachi was initially offered the presidency but said he declined to take it for personal reasons.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said, "I think this is a new beginning. It is not an end. There's lots of hard work ahead."

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said Iraqis "will now see that their destiny is in the hands of their own leaders."

The United States and Britain will present Tuesday a new revised draft text on a U.N. resolution addressing in greater detail the handover of sovereignty to an Iraqi interim government, the State Department said.

The first draft, presented last month, was criticized for a lack of clear language on the future relationship between the new Iraqi government and the international military force, which will be under a unified command led by an American general. At issue was whether Iraqi leaders will have final say when it comes to approving military operations.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the revised text "makes clearer that the occupation ends on June 30th and that the Iraqi interim government will be fully sovereign." (Full story)

As Iraqis and the world were learning details of the new ministers two car bombs exploded in as many hours.

The first -- outside a military base near Baji, 125 miles (200 kilometers) north of Baghdad -- killed 11 Iraqis and wounded 26 others Tuesday morning, a U.S. military spokesman said.

Two American soldiers were among the wounded, the spokesman said.

The second car bomb exploded outside an entrance to the U.S.-led coalition headquarters compound in Baghdad.

The U.S. military said three Iraqis were killed and 20 wounded near the area known as the "Green Zone." (Map)

The blast happened near the headquarters of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, although it was not clear whether the Kurdish party's office was a target.

On Monday, a car bomb outside the Green Zone killed four Iraqis and wounded 25 others, a U.S. military spokesman said.

U.S. clashes with insurgents in Kufa

U.S. troops battled insurgents, believed to be loyal to maverick Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, on Tuesday near a mosque in the south-central city of Kufa.

Small-arms and artillery fire could be heard across the town, and at least one building caught fire in the fighting.

A reconnaissance patrol left a coalition base early Tuesday evening for areas where suspected insurgents allied with al-Sadr were hiding. At least 10 tanks and several armored Humvees were part of the patrol.

Al-Sadr's militia, the Mehdi Army, and the coalition have clashed frequently in the area around the Shiite holy cities of Karbala and Najaf since early April when the militia took control of the latter town.

The combat in Kufa -- just outside Najaf -- has been unabated in the four days since al-Sadr proposed a truce that entailed the withdrawal of coalition forces and the militia loyal to him.

Coalition military officials said fighting has lessened in Karbala -- where Iraqi police are patrolling the streets -- and Najaf, but they insist that al-Sadr's forces must lay down their arms everywhere.

The coalition rejected al-Sadr's proposal to pull out of Najaf, saying it would leave a power vacuum. Coalition forces have begun work with Iraqi police to get officers on Najaf's streets.

The coalition also insists that al-Sadr, who is wanted in connection with the death of a rival cleric in April 2003, turn himself in to face trial on the charges.

Other developments

  • Two Polish employees of a construction company were kidnapped by "unknown individuals" Tuesday from their Baghdad homes, the Polish-led command said. One of the two captives escaped from a moving car and reached a coalition checkpoint. He is in good condition and has contacted his family. An investigation and rescue operation continued into the night.
  • Three coalition soldiers were wounded in an ambush in front of a school in the vicinity of Kish and are now in stable condition, the Polish-led command said. Suspected insurgents brandishing small arms fired at coalition forces heading to a ceremony for a school they helped rebuild.
  • The Iraqi Interior Ministry rushed police reinforcements from Baghdad to Najaf last week with inadequate preparations, leading the officers to return to the capital because of conditions they found unacceptable, an Iraqi police official said Tuesday. About 150 new officers had been expected to begin joint patrols to help calm the city. An American adviser to the police Monday blamed the U.S. Army for failing to provide the Iraqi police with proper accommodations, equipment and food, but Maj. Major Bassem al-Ani of the Iraqi police said it was the Interior Ministry's lack of preparation. (Full story)
  • Australian Prime Minister John Howard on Tuesday heads for high-profile meetings with U.S. and British leaders, leaving behind a political storm over when and what he and his government knew about Iraqi prisoner abuse. Howard, a steadfast supporter of the American-led action in Iraq, will have talks with the U.S. president this week in Washington, with the future of Iraq a key topic. (Full story)
  • A U.S. Marine was killed in action Monday in Al Anbar province, the Coalition Press Information Center said. In addition, a U.S. soldier died and two others were wounded Sunday night when an improvised explosive device detonated in southwest Baghdad, the press center said. A similar blast earlier Sunday killed another soldier and wounded two others south of Baghdad, the coalition said. No other details were released. Since the United States invaded Iraq last year, 816 American troops have been killed, including 598 of them in combat.
  • CNN's Guy Raz contributed to this report.

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