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Iraq, Jordan diplomatic tiff dying down

Report: Jordanians cheered relative's role in blast that killed 127


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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- A diplomatic huff between Jordan and Iraq which prompted them to withdraw their envoys shows signs of subsiding.

The dispute concerned a Jordanian newspaper's report that a native family celebrated their relative's role in a bombing that killed 127 people in the southern Iraqi city of Hilla last month.

That story generated angry demonstrations in Iraq and underscored Iraq's concerns about its neighbors' ability to stop foreign fighters from slipping into their country.

Citing security concerns, Jordan's King Abdullah responded to news of the demonstrations by recalling the ambassador.

The interim Iraq government then called home its envoy from Jordan's capital of Amman.

Jordan's King Abdullah has since ordered the top envoy to Iraq to return to Baghdad. The status of Iraq's diplomat is unclear.

Tuesday, interim Iraqi Prime Minister's Ayad Allawi issued a statement calling for more investigation of the Hilla incident, and urging Jordan to investigate the reported celebrations.

Allawi also demanded an explanation from the family and the newspaper that published reports of their celebration.

The father of a Jordanian suspect has denied his son's involvement in the Hilla blast and said his son died in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.

Allawi said Jordan's prime minister has contacted him "expressing his sorrow" and saying investigations are forthcoming.

Allawi calls for agreement on government

Also on Tuesday, Allawi urged politicians, including the president of the interim National Assembly, Sheikh Dhary Al-Fayadh, to help "speed up" the new government's formation.

This is "due to the utmost importance of this case, so as to resume the operation of building Iraq in all fields, wishing them all success and progress in their assignments," a statement from Allawi said.

On January 30, Iraqis elected a transitional National Assembly, which met for the first time last week. But politicians have not reached a deal on the government's composition.

Jalal Talabani, the leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and a top candidate for the president in the transitional government, said last week that the transitional assembly will probably choose a new government by this weekend.

Ibrahim al-Jaafari of the Shiite Dawa Party will likely replace Allawi, while politicians are looking to nominate a Sunni to take Fayadh's place as the transitional president of the 275-member assembly.

A major goal of the assembly will be to create a permanent constitution on which Iraqi citizens will vote.

Other developments

  • Seven U.S. senators -- five Democrats and two Republicans -- visited Iraq on Tuesday to speak with Iraqi politicians and observe training for Iraqi security forces. Making the visit were: Sen. Robert Bennett, R-Utah; Lamar Alexander, R- Tennessee; Harry Reid, D-Nevada; Richard Durbin, D-Illinois, Barbara Boxer, D- California; Patty Murray D-Washington; and Ken Salazar D-Colorado.
  • A U.S. Marine with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force died during combat Monday in Anbar province west of Baghdad, a U.S. military statement said. Since the start of the war two years ago, 1,524 U.S. forces have died in Iraq.
  • Three Iraqis suspected of launching a rocket strike on coalition forces were arrested in in the northern city of Kirkuk on Tuesday, the U.S. military said. Task Force Liberty soldiers conducted the nighttime raid and said they confiscated "rocket fuses and AK-47 assault weapons."
  • CNN's Aneesh Raman contributed to this report.


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