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Last Updated: Tuesday, 28 June, 2005, 18:02 GMT 19:02 UK
Iraqi leader denies rebel talks
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani
Jalal Talabani said it was up to the US if they spoke to rebels
Iraq's president has denied his government has talked to insurgents, contradicting an earlier claim by US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

"The Iraqi government has nothing to do with the negotiations with insurgents," Jalal Talabani said on Tuesday.

He spoke to reporters to mark the first anniversary of the US handover of power to an Iraqi government.

There was no let-up in violence on the anniversary, which saw Iraq's oldest lawmaker killed by a suicide bomber.

Dhari al-Fayadh, 87, died with his son and three bodyguards when the car bomb hit their convoy in northern Baghdad.

The United States certainly kicked down the door to democracy, but only the Iraqis themselves can walk through it
Brett, Arizona, USA

He is the second MP to die in renewed violence following the installation of an elected government in April.

More than 1,000 people - mostly Iraqis - have been killed since the government was formed.

Negotiations denied

Mr Rumsfeld said at the weekend the US regularly "facilitates" meetings between Iraqi officials and insurgents.

POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS
28 June 2004: US-led coalition hands sovereignty to transitional government under Iyad Allawi
15 Aug 2004: Parliament with limited powers set up
30 Jan 2005: Elections for transitional assembly
6-7 Apr: Parliament elects Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani as president; Ibrahim Jaafari, a Shia, named PM
3 May: New government sworn in, with some posts left vacant
15 Aug: Deadline for the drafting of a new constitution
15 Oct: Referendum on new constitution
Dec: Elections due by the end of the month

But he downplayed their significance, saying "I wouldn't make a big deal of it."

Mr Talabani flatly denied the claim, saying if the Americans were negotiating with the insurgents, "it's up to them".

The controversy is unwelcome news for US President George Bush, who is delivering a major speech to mark the anniversary, the BBC's world affairs correspondent Nick Childs says.

Opinion polls in the US suggest support for the presence of American troops in Iraq is dwindling, with 56% of respondents disapproving of the administration's Iraq policy.

Suicide bombing
Dhari al-Fayadh's bombed car Tuesday 28 June 2005
Dhari al-Fayadh was on his way to parliament when the bomber struck

Mr Fayadh, a tribal leader who had presided over the first session of parliament before a speaker was elected, was on his way to a meeting of the assembly when his attacker struck.

"A vehicle packed with explosives and driven by a suicide bomber was detonated alongside his two-car convoy," an interior ministry source told AFP news agency.

In other developments:

  • A bomber kills himself and three others at a police guard station in a hospital in Musayyib, 70km (40 miles) south of Baghdad

  • In the northern city of Kirkuk, a car bomb kills two bodyguards in a failed attempt to assassinate the chief of traffic police

  • About 1,000 US marines backed by Iraqi troops launch Operation Sword between the towns of Hit and Hadith - the third big offensive this month against insurgents in the west of the country

  • The government calls for an end to a UN programme through which Iraq pays compensation for its 1990 invasion of Kuwait and the 1991 Gulf War.




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