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Shi'a Politicians Fail To Reach Consensus On Iraqi PM

Iraqi Vice President Ibrahim al-Ja'fari (file photo) 16 February 2005 -- Iraqi officials say top Shi'a politicians failed to reach a consensus today on their nominee for prime minister.

Ali Hashim al-Youshaa, one of the alliance's leaders, said after hours of closed-door meetings that members of the clergy-backed United Iraqi Alliance have agreed to hold a secret ballot. It is to choose between Ibrahim al-Ja'fari and Ahmad Chalabi, most likely on Friday.

Al-Ja'fari is the leader of the Da'wah Party, a part of the United Iraqi Alliance. He also serves as Iraqi's interim vice president. Chalabi leads the secular Iraqi National Congress.

In other news, police found the bodies of eight Iraqis, mostly civilian employees of a U.S. military base, who had been shot in the back of the head north of Baghdad.

The U.S. military said today that four U.S. soldiers have died in Iraq since yesterday -- one killed in action and three in accidents.

Four oil pipelines were hit by saboteurs today throughout Iraq.

Earlier today, Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena, who was seized in Iraq earlier this month, appeared on a video pleading for her life and appealing for foreign troops to leave Iraq.

(Compiled from wire services.)

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