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Last Updated: Monday, 16 February, 2004, 15:48 GMT
US troops killed in Iraq attacks
US convoy in Baghdad during sandstorm
US military convoys frequently come under attack
Two US soldiers have been killed in separate roadside bomb attacks in Iraq.

The first blast happened in the centre of the capital Baghdad on Monday morning, killing a soldier from the 1st Armored Division and wounding another.

Within the hour, a soldier from the 4th Infantry Division died and four others were wounded in an attack in Baquba, about 55km (35 miles) north of Baghdad.

Meanwhile, Iraq's US-appointed Governing Council began discussions about the country's political future.

Monday also saw at least one child killed and three other people injured in an explosion at a primary school in a Shia Muslim area of Baghdad, Kadhamiya.

Iraqi police and hospital sources say an explosive device in a rubbish bin went off when children were playing near it.

The US military says a second device was discovered in the area and defused by an American bomb disposal team.

Two arrested

More than 500 US service personnel have died in Iraq since the invasion to remove Saddam Hussein began last March.

Many have been killed in attacks by insurgents since President George W Bush declared an end to active combat on 1 May.

US officials are divided about whether Iraqis or foreign fighters are responsible for recent attacks, which include a growing number of assaults on Iraqis co-operating with the American-led coalition occupying the country.

A US military spokesman said two Iraqis were arrested following the attack in Baquba.

One had a mobile phone that might have been used to detonate the bomb, he added.

Four Iraqis are also reported to have been injured in the blast.

The US military also revealed that gunmen opened fire on Saturday on a taxi taking Americans from a religious group from the site of the ancient city of Babylon back to Baghdad.

One was killed and three were wounded.

Political future

The Iraqi Governing Council meeting follows consultations with Iraq's neighbours in Kuwait City on Sunday.

The leader of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, American administrator Paul Bremer, has ruled out direct elections before the handover of power in June.

But the system of selecting an interim government proposed by the coalition last November has been heavily criticised by many parties in Iraq.

Under this plan, an assembly - chosen by notables in each of Iraq's 18 provinces - would have been the basis of the interim government.

The United Nations has sent a team to assess whether the country is ready for such elections and its report should be published within a fortnight.

The BBC's Jonny Dymond in Baghdad says that, judging by the comments of the team leader and his spokesman, they have ruled out elections before the handover of power.

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