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Scores Killed In Iraq Blasts

29 September 2005 -- Three car bombs exploded nearly simultaneously tonight in a mostly Shi'ite city north of Baghdad, causing numerous deaths and injuries.

Local hospital official Dr. Khaled al-Azawi said at least 60 people were killed in the blasts, which took place near a police station, a bank, and a vegetable market in downtown Balad.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military announced that a roadside bomb had killed five American soldiers yesterday in the western town of Ramadi.

Thirteen U.S. service members have now been killed in Iraq over the past four days.

Troop Cuts Possible

In Washington, General George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said the possibility for troops cuts in 2006 still exists.

Speaking to a U.S. congressional panel, Casey added that the next 75 days will be critical in deciding on such cuts.

"Condition-based reductions of coalition forces is a critical element of our strategy and we certainly do look to do that over the course of next year," Casey said. "The next 75 days are going to be critical in what happens after that. And so I'd like to wait until we get through this political process here to give you a better assessment of that."

Iraqis are due to vote on a draft constitution in a 15 October referendum and, if they endorse it, elect a new government on 15 December.

(news agencies)

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