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Iraqi Defense Ministry Official Shot Dead --> Iraqi FM Zebari 19 July 2004 -- Iraq's Defense Ministry today said militants have shot and killed a senior ministry official.

Defense Ministry spokesman Radhi Badr said assailants killed Issam Jasim Qasim in a drive-by shooting near his home late yesterday. Qasim was one of some 20 director-generals appointed to the newly reestablished Defense Ministry.

Badr said one of Qasim's body guards was also killed. Earlier today, a fuel truck rigged with explosives blew up outside a police station in Baghdad, killing at least nine people.

The blast destroyed cars and buildings in the surrounding area. About 60 other people were wounded. It was the latest in a series of car bomb attacks in recent weeks.

Insurgents throughout Iraq have been using car bombings and other weapons to target Iraq police, who insurgents say are collaborating with the United States.

Meanwhile, Iraq's interim government today announced the appointment of 43 ambassadors.

Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said at a press conference that the appointments are "the first step in restoring Iraq's diplomatic representation." He added that this is a crucial phase "that confirms the sovereignty of the Iraqi government and its complete control over its foreign policy."

Zebari declined to name the ambassadors, but he said the envoys were chosen based on both competency and political considerations, given Iraq's ethnic and religious diversity.

The appointments include posts in 17 European countries, including the Vatican and Geneva; 12 Arab nations, including the Arab League and Iran; three Asian nations; and Canada, Australia, and South Africa.

Zebari said no determination has been made regarding a diplomatic mission in the United States.