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At least 43 killed in Baghdad car bombs
Updated: 2005-08-17 16:44

At least 43 people were killed and 76 others wounded in triple car bombs that rocked Baghdad, an Iraqi interior ministry official said, reported AFP.

"The victims from the bombings were admitted to various city hospitals and the toll has now gone up to 43 dead and 76 wounded," the official said.

The attacks, which broke a brief lull in major insurgent violence, came two days after politicians failed to draft a new constitution because of sharp differences on key issues, raising concerns of fresh political turmoil.

Two car bombs exploded 10 minutes apart at the bus station in the central district of Al-Nahda and a third exploded near Al-Kindi hospital in the same neighbourhood.

An Iraqi boy cries after he learns his father, a bus driver, was killed in two massive car bombs that exploded at a main bus station, Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2005, in Baghdad, Iraq.
An Iraqi boy cries after he learns his father, a bus driver, was killed in two massive car bombs that exploded at a main bus station, Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2005, in Baghdad, Iraq. [Reuters]
The bombings occurred after attempts to write the country's first post- Saddam Hussein constitution by a Monday deadline failed, prompting parliament to give politicians another week to complete the charter.

"This is a one-time extension... if Iraq misses the next deadline, we have to dissolve the national assembly, the government will collapse and fresh elections will have to be held," Munther al-Fadhal, a Kurdish-allied member of the constitution told AFP Tuesday.

Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari and other politicians downplayed the crisis.

"The demography of Iraq and its complicated political map" should be taken into consideration, Jaafari said. "The delay was for one week only and the pending points do not need a longer period."

But politicians spoke of intractable differences between the Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish representatives battling to hammer out an agreement by the new August 22 deadline.

Black smoke fills the sky following car bombings in central Baghdad
Black smoke fills the sky following car bombings in central Baghdad, August 17, 2005.[AFP]
"There are serious differences on issues like the sharing of national (oil) wealth and the demand of self-determination from the Kurds," Fadhal added.

The drafting of the constitution, due to be put to a referendum in October, is a key phase in Iraq's political transition which the United States and its allies hope could pave the way to a pullout of foreign troops.

US ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said he was "personally disappointed" there had been no agreement on time, but brushed aside the damaging scenario of negotiators missing the new deadline.

Khalilzad said it was a "mistaken concept" for Iraqis to believe that fresh elections would solve remaining differences over the country's future.

"Rather than posturing for electoral advantage, it is important to focus on resolving remaining differences," he said.

According to Khalilzad, negotiators had reached broad agreement on issues including the role of Islam and federalism, but "rather than saying it's finished and we'll fine-tune it later, they decided to go for a clean, legal option."

US leaders hailed the faltering process as "democracy at work."

"I applaud the heroic efforts of Iraqi negotiators and appreciate their work to resolve remaining issues through continued negotiation and dialogue," President George W. Bush said Monday.

"Their efforts are a tribute to democracy and an example that difficult problems can be solved peacefully through debate, negotiation and compromise."

Shiite panelist Jawad al-Maliki said he was optimistic an agreement would be reached, but indicated a draft might be presented without all parties on board.

"We are not seeking 100 percent consensus -- the most important thing is that the people of Iraq accept (the constitution) in a referendum," Maliki told AFP.

In the days leading up to Monday's deadline, a broad consensus had seemingly emerged between Kurds and Shiites who both favour a federal structure for Iraq.

However, the once-dominant Sunni Arabs fear a federalism with regionally-autonomous governments could leave them without a share of the country's vast oil reserves, which lie largely in the Kurdish zone of the north and the Shiite south.

Meanwhile, a British newspaper reported that the number of dead Iraqi civilians counted at the Baghdad morgue hit 1,100 in July, the highest toll in recent history.

The Independent said the figure was just 700 short of the total number of US soldiers killed in Iraq since April 2003, when Saddam was ousted by US-led invasion troops.

On a trip to Paraguay, US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld kept up the pressure on Iran, saying US forces have found Iranian weapons inside Iraq on more than one occasion over the past couple of months.

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