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Iraq Transition

Iraqi president plans talks with Iran, Syria

Story Highlights

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani to meet with officials from Syria and Iran
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem meets with Iraqi Prime Minister
Syria calls for timetable for withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq
Iraqi comedian, who joked about militias, terrorists and government, killed
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraqi President Jalal Talabani is expected to meet in the next few days with high-ranking officials from Iran and Syria, neighbors that the United States has blamed for many of Iraq's problems.

Talabani planned to travel this weekend to Tehran to meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a spokesman said.

The Associated Press reported that Syrian President Bashar Assad will be in Tehran at the same time, but a Talabani spokesman said the Iraqi president does not plan to meet with anyone from the Syrian government during that trip.

Talabani planned to meet with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem early Tuesday in Iraq, according to a media spokesman for the Iraqi Parliamentary Council.

Moallem, the highest ranking Syrian official to visit Iraq since the U.S.-led war began in 2003, has been in Baghdad since Sunday.

He promised Monday to work for renewed economic and security ties with Iraq.

Moallem told Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki that Syria supports Iraq's government of national unity. He said Syria condemns terrorism targeting Iraqi civilians and institutions and agreed to work with Iraq's new government to curb violence in Iraq -- a situation Moallem said presents a threat to the entire region.

"We want to be partners in terms of the profit and loss and to increase the coordination in the political and security aspects and to develop the economic cooperation between the two countries," Moallem said.

Neither leader provided specifics of how the two governments would cooperate. However, Moallem and al-Maliki announced their intention to begin talks on mutual security concerns and to work for resumption of financial, economic and information exchanges.

On Sunday, Moallem urged establishment of a timetable for a U.S. pullout.

"We believe that a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq will help in reducing violence and preserving security," he said at a news conference.

U.S. officials have previously accused Syria of interfering in Lebanon. U.S. and Iraqi officials have also said insurgents and terrorists have infiltrated Iraq through Syria and brought in weapons across the Syrian border.

Syria has said it cannot block its entire border, much as the United States cannot control its entire border with Mexico. And it has denied interfering in Iraqi affairs.

Comedian killed, official convoy attacked

Meanwhile, the violence in Iraq continued with an Iraqi television comedian among those killed Monday in ongoing violence, Baghdad police said.

Walid Hassan, who appeared on the show "Caricature" on al-Sharqiya Sunni Iraqi satellite TV, routinely criticized the government and joked about illegal militias and terrorists. Hassan was killed by gunmen in Yarmouk neighborhood in western Baghdad, police said.

Also on Monday, gunmen attacked the convoy of one of Iraq's two deputy health ministers, killing two guards and wounding another, a ministry official told CNN.

The minister, Hakem al-Zamily, was not in the convoy at the time of the attack, which took place in the central Baghdad district of Fadhil around noon (4 a.m. ET), the official said.

The attack came less than a day after at least 24 gunmen -- some dressed as national police -- abducted Iraq's other deputy health minister, Ammar al-Saffar, from his Baghdad home, a Baghdad emergency police official told CNN.

In other violence Monday, two civilians were killed and seven were wounded about 1 p.m. when a roadside bomb exploded in an outdoor market in the Sadr City section of eastern Baghdad, police said.

Less than an hour later, six mortar rounds fired in central Baghdad killed one person and wounded six, police said.

Iraqi police found 60 bullet-riddled bodies in various Baghdad neighborhoods on Monday, an official with Baghdad emergency police told CNN.

The official said some of the bodies showed signs of torture and had their hands tied together. Iraqi police could not immediately identify the bodies.

CNN's Erin McLaughlin and Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report.

Copyright 2006 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

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