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Iraq Transition

McCain urges Iraq to form government

Three attacks kill nine people earlier in day, including Sunni imam
Iraqis mourn Saturday over a casket of a teenage boy who was killed by a roadside bomb in Balad Ruz.


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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- As violence continued to plague Iraq on Saturday, two U.S. senators visited the country and asked leaders to overcome political obstacles and form a long-awaited national unity government.

Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, was joined by Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wisconsin, as he said that he was "guardedly optimistic" that Iraqi leaders could form a government "within weeks."

"I come away with the impression that the Iraqi leaders understand the sense of urgency that we have conveyed to them," McCain said. "We all know the polls show declining support amongst the American people, and we feel that it would be important to have a government, not only for American public opinion, but for the Iraqi people to have a government they can identify with and rely on."

Earlier in the day, nine people were killed in a trio of attacks that included the fatal shooting of a Sunni imam who was driving in Baghdad, police said.

Sheikh Abed Farhan was imam of the Aqtab Arba'a mosque in the Bayaa neighborhood in southwestern Baghdad.

South of Baghdad, in the Babil province town of Mahmoudiya, four people were killed and 13 others were wounded when six mortar rounds crashed into a residential neighborhood.

In southeast Baghdad's al-Waziriya neighborhood, a bomb hidden inside a booth used by traffic police killed four people when it exploded as a minibus passed, police said. Two others were wounded in the blast.

On Friday night, six bodies were found -- apparently tortured and strangled -- inside a parked car in the al-Khadraa section of western Baghdad, city police said.

A seventh unidentified body was found Saturday morning in the Saydiya neighborhood of southwest Baghdad, police said. The victim appeared to have been tortured and shot in the head.

Saturday's violence came a day after a bombing outside a Sunni mosque north of Baghdad. Worshippers were leaving midday prayers when the blast went off, killing five people and wounding 17, police said. (Full story)

Russian tip?

A newly released Pentagon report claims that as U.S. troops moved toward Iraq in 2003, Saddam Hussein received intelligence from a Russian ambassador about U.S. invasion strategy. (Watch how Pentagon report says Hussein got secret U.S. strategy -- 1:18)

The Russians claimed they obtained the information from sources inside the U.S. Central Command headquarters in Doha, Qatar, and conveyed it to Hussein via the Russian ambassador to Iraq, the report said.

Russia dismissed the report on Saturday. "Such unfounded accusations have been voiced regularly," said a Russian spokesman. "We do not see fit to comment on these insinuations." Full story

Ex-captive's homecoming

The first of three Christian aid workers rescued after nearly four months of captivity in Iraq returned home to England on Saturday.

Norman Kember, 74, a Briton who was found Thursday bound but unguarded in a Baghdad house with two Canadian hostages, spoke to reporters after arriving at London's Heathrow airport. He read a written statement and thanked his rescuers, U.S. and British forces.

"I do not believe that a lasting peace is achieved by armed force, but I pay tribute to their courage and thank those who played a part in my release," Kember said. "I am not ready at this time to talk about my months of captivity except to say that I am delighted to be free and reunited with my family."

Peggy Gish of Christian Peacemaker Teams told a news conference that the other two hostages, Jim Loney, 41, and Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32, planned to depart Iraq on Saturday. (Full story)

Their rescue has raised hopes among family and friends of abducted U.S. journalist Jill Carroll that she also can be freed. (Full story)

Other developments

  • U.S. and Iraqi soldiers on Friday detained 52 suspected insurgents in eight villages in and around Hawiya as part of Operation Scorpion, the U.S. military said Saturday. The city is near Kirkuk. Iraqi soldiers said that "24 out of the 52 detainees were on their target list, built from their own intelligence gathering." The other detainees were being held for questioning. The operation has since ended.
  • In a supporting operation, U.S. and Iraqi troops conducted raids for suspected terrorists in Kirkuk, They detained six and discovered a weapons cache, the military said.
  • CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq, Mike Mount, Cal Perry and Auday Sadik contributed to this report.

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