Middle East

Car bombing in Baghdad market kills 25

Updated: 2007-05-22 22:33
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Also Monday, British troops clashed with Shiite Muslim gunmen in the southern city of Basra. Britain's military said one British soldier and a civilian driver were killed when a supply convoy was attacked in the center of the city, Iraq's second biggest.

Elsewhere, US troops raided safe houses south of Baghdad but failed to find three soldiers missing since a May 12 ambush that left four other Americans and an Iraqi dead.

"We've (identified) some safe houses and we targeted a couple of those today and they were able to slip away from us. But we're going to come at things from a different angle," said a US spokesman, Maj. Webster Wright.

US officers said the search by thousands of US and Iraqi soldiers may be forcing the kidnappers to move the three Americans frequently, preventing insurgents from posting pictures of their captives on the Internet.

"We choose to be cautiously optimistic," Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch told CNN. "We're pursuing all leads with a passion, but right now we believe our soldiers are still alive. Each day that passes when we don't see proof of life, it causes us concern."

With violence raging, pressure is mounting on Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government to demonstrate progress on key reforms or risk losing American support for the unpopular war.

Defense Minister Abdul-Qader al-Obeidi said that Iraq's military was drawing up plans to cope with any quick US military pullout.

"The army plans on the basis of a worst case scenario so as not to allow any security vacuum," al-Obeidi said. "There are meetings with political leaders on how we can deal with a sudden pullout."

White House spokesman Tony Fratto said Bush expressed confidence in al-Maliki during a telephone call Monday to the Iraqi leader.

He said the two talked about political progress in Iraq, and al-Maliki gave Bush updates on two key US demands - legislation to share Iraq's oil wealth among its regions and ethnic groups and a reform of the constitution.

But two senior Iraqi officials told The Associated Press that Bush warned al-Maliki that Washington expected to see "tangible results quickly" on the oil bill and other legislation as the price for continued support. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not supposed to release the information.

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