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Iraq Transition

Iraqis debate leadership amid bombings

Roadside bomb kills 3 Americans; Baghdad minibus targeted

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Iraqi police examine a minibus Tuesday after a bomb exploded, killing at least three people.

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraqi politicians failed to reach an agreement Tuesday in discussions on a new prime minister as violence claimed more American and Iraqi lives.

Three U.S. soldiers were killed in a roadside bombing north of Baghdad, while a blast on a minibus in the capital's Sadr City neighborhood left three people dead.

A vehicle carrying the American soldiers was struck by an explosive device about 3:45 p.m., the military said in a written statement. They were from Multi-National Division-Baghdad.

A soldier assigned to 2/28 Brigade Combat Team died Monday from "wounds sustained due to enemy action while operating" in the restive Anbar province on Sunday, the U.S. military said.

Also, a soldier from 130th Engineer Brigade was killed Sunday when his combat patrol struck a roadside bomb near Balad, the U.S. military said Tuesday. Another soldier was wounded in the incident.

This brings the number of U.S. military personnel killed in the Iraq war to 2,359.

Already, the 31 troop deaths in April matches the total from March. There were 62 deaths in January and 55 in February.

According to a CNN count, the highest death toll for U.S. troops in a single month was 137 in November 2004, when the U.S. military led a major offensive in Falluja; followed by 135 in April 2004, when an earlier siege took place in Falluja; and 107 in January 2005, when Iraqi elections brought an increase in violence.

In Washington Tuesday, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff defended Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld from criticism by former Pentagon brass, telling reporters that "nobody works harder than he does."

Gen. Peter Pace opened a Pentagon briefing with a defense of the planning for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, where U.S. troops have battled a persistent insurgency since the fall of former dictator Saddam Hussein's government. (Full story)

In the past month, three former generals have accused Rumsfeld of bungling the occupation of Iraq by refusing to commit enough troops to secure the country after taking Baghdad.

In a Time magazine essay published this week, retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold said the war plan was "fundamentally flawed," and many senior officers "acted timidly when their voices urgently needed to be heard."

Bombings target capital

The minibus bombing in Sadr City wounded nine people, emergency police said.

The attack came three days after a bomb went off on another minibus headed to the poor Shiite neighborhood, killing one person and wounding seven.

On Tuesday evening, a bomb exploded in a parked car near a restaurant in northern Baghdad, wounding four police officers and five civilians, emergency police said.

Earlier in the day, three roadside bombs wounded eight Iraqi police officers and one civilian in the Iraqi capital.

In Babil province, Iraqi police found 11 bodies, all shot in the head. None of the dead discovered in the small town of Kifil had identification.

Kifil is close to Hilla, which is about 60 miles (96 kilometers) south of Baghdad.

Shiite lawmakers still stymied

Shiite lawmakers met unsuccessfully Tuesday to debate the nominee for prime minister in the new four-year government. (Full story)

Some Shiites are still standing behind transitional prime minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari. But Kurdish and Sunni politicians in recent days issued a final rejection of al-Jaafari, saying he has proved he is not up to the task.

At issue is his ability to govern a country embroiled in sectarian strife, prompting fears that it teeters on the brink of civil war.

Al-Jaafari shows no indication that he is willing to step aside, still claiming support from influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

The Shiite bloc -- made up of seven parties -- won the most seats in December's parliamentary election and has first choice in choosing a prime minister candidate.

Negotiations since then have failed to produce a unity government. Any choice for prime minister must win approval from the parliament.

U.S. officials have been pressuring Iraqi leaders to reach an agreement.

"Forming a unity government is critical to defeating the terrorists and securing the peace," President Bush said Monday.

"The terrorists and insurgents thrive in a political vacuum. And the delay in forming a government is creating a vacuum that the terrorists and insurgents are working to exploit."

Hostage's wife breaks silence

The wife of an American being held hostage in Iraq implored his kidnappers Tuesday to resume talks with her to free her husband, a businessman snatched off Baghdad-area streets one year ago.

In her first interview since the abduction, Liliana Ake urged the kidnappers who contacted her last April -- and then abruptly stopped calling -- to contact her again about her husband, Jeffrey.

During an interview on CNN from her hometown of LaPorte, Indiana, she asked the kidnappers to "please take the next step to release my husband and return his children's lives to normal." (Full story)

CNN's Arwa Damon contributed to this report.

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