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Thirteen Killed In Baghdad Blasts, Police Say


BAGHDAD (Reuters) -- Explosions have killed at least 13 people in Baghdad, with one blast targeting a Shi'ite member of the first U.S.-backed Iraqi governing body.

A roadside blast exploded near a vehicle convoy carrying Ahmad al-Barak, one of 25 members of the interim Iraqi Governing Council set up following the 2003 invasion.

Barak, who now heads a government committee on property disputes, was not harmed in the attack in Baghdad's central Karrada district, but police said at least one person was killed and at least four were wounded by the explosion.

The Governing Council, whose members were hand-picked by Washington, advised the U.S. authorities which ruled Iraq until a sovereign interim Iraqi government took over in June 2004.

Seven people were killed by a separate explosion at a car park in eastern Baghdad, police said, while four were killed and eight wounded by a roadside bomb in northern Baghdad.

A fourth bomb, planted on a car in Karrada, killed one person and wounded five others. Gunmen killed one policeman and wounded three others in eastern Baghdad.

The bloodshed across the Iraqi capital underscores the fragility of the war-weary country's emerging calm.

While car bombs, roadside blasts, and armed attacks still occur on a daily basis, the decline in violence has been dramatic. In October, violent deaths fell to the lowest levels of the war for both the U.S. military and Iraqi civilians.

Yet even as security improves, reconciliation between Iraq's diverse ethnic, religious, and political factions remains elusive. U.S. and Iraqi officials say violence may spike ahead of provincial elections scheduled for January.

The ability of Iraqi police and soldiers to enforce order has taken on new importance as the United States hands over control to local forces and plans to reduce its force of around 150,000 in Iraq.

Baghdad and Washington are struggling to conclude an agreement by the end of the year to replace a UN mandate for U.S. troops. The deal would allow the troops to stay through 2011.

Tariq al-Hashimi, a Sunni Arab who is one of Iraq's two vice presidents, has proposed putting the divisive agreement to a popular referendum. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's Shi'ite-led government says it will send any deal to parliament for approval.
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