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Iraqi Speaker Calls Americans Butchers
NY Times
July 23, 2006

BAGHDAD, Iraq, July 22 — The speaker of the Iraqi Parliament criticized the American government's involvement in Iraq on Saturday, likening the invasion and its consequences to "the work of butchers" and demanding that the American authorities disentangle themselves from Iraq's political affairs.

The speaker, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, a Sunni Islamist who quickly developed a reputation for provocative public comments after his election in late April, also said the American government wanted Iraq "to stay under the American boot."

"We know there was a corrupt regime in Saddam, but a regime should be removed by surgery, not by butchering," he said during a speech at a United Nations-sponsored conference on transitional justice. "The U.S. occupation is butcher's work under the slogan of democracy and human rights and justice."

"Leave us to solve our problems," he continued. "We don't need an agenda from outside." He did not specifically call for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. Sunni Arab leaders have increasingly said they need American troops here to protect them from Shiite militias and Shiite-led government forces.

The comments by Mr. Mashhadani, one of the government's highest-ranking Sunni Arabs, could prove embarrassing for Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, who is scheduled to visit President Bush in Washington on Tuesday after meeting with Prime Minister Tony Blair in London on Monday.

The men are expected to discuss Iraq's national security and strategies to curtail the rampant sectarian violence, which is threatening to tear the country apart.

Mr. Mashhadani's candidacy for the speaker position worried many Shiite leaders who regarded him as too hard-line. He made his mark early by delivering a provocative acceptance speech that alarmed many legislators, in which he declared, "Any hand or tongue that harms this unity by wrongdoing or provocation deserves to be cut off."

His comments came shortly before political leaders met in a show of national unity and vowed to work to end the bloodshed.

Mr. Maliki hopes to broker solutions through a so-called national reconciliation plan that was announced last month and seeks to reduce violence through dialogue and an amnesty program for fighters. The government has not yet defined the terms of the amnesty component.

"Those who oppose reconciliation support the restoration of the dictatorship," Mr. Maliki said at a news conference on Saturday. "With this reconciliation, we want to say that we are all equal and that the Constitution is the tent that covers us all."

Violence continued at a low boil in Iraq on Saturday, with civilians and security forces coming under attack around the country.

In the most deadly attack on civilians, gunmen fired on workmen at a construction site in western Baghdad, killing seven of them, according to an Interior Ministry official.

The motivation for the attack was unclear, but Baghdad has turned into a battleground between Shiite and Sunni Arab militias in recent months.

The police have reported hundreds of killings in the past two weeks alone, mostly in Baghdad, though the number of dead is likely much higher. Iraqi government figures released by the United Nations this week showed that an average of about 100 people a day were killed in May and June.

An American soldier was killed Saturday morning when a bomb exploded near his vehicle, the American military command said. Another was killed at night when his patrol was attacked, the military said.

An American serviceman assigned to the 43rd Military Police Brigade in Baghdad died of "a noncombat related injury" on Thursday, the American military command said in a separate statement. The statement said the case was under investigation but offered no further information.

A mortar bomb attack in a Shiite neighborhood of western Baghdad killed five civilians and wounded three, according to an official at a Yarmouk hospital.

In Falluja, a bomb exploded near an Iraqi Army patrol, killing at least three soldiers, witnesses said.

In Baquba, north of the capital, a bomb exploded next to a police patrol, killing three officers and wounding five, a police official reported. In the Baladiyat neighborhood of Baghdad, a bomb blew up next to a civilian car, killing the driver, the Ministry of Interior said.

The American-led coalition said 15 militants and an Iraqi soldier were killed in a three-hour gun battle in Mussayib. The Associated Press reported that the battle appeared to be part of a campaign against the militia of the radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who has been blamed for much of the sectarian violence.

Clashes also broke out between gunmen and the police in the northern city of Mosul, killing three of the gunmen, according to the police there. And according to Reuters, an improvised bomb killed a soldier and wounded four in the city of Kut, a policeman was shot dead in Amara and a soldier was killed when a bomb exploded at his house in Mussayib.

An Iraqi employee of The New York Times contributed reporting for this article.

Original Text