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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 March 2006, 01:31 GMT
Iraq PM defiant after bloody week
Iraqi youths mourn their dead brother at a Baghdad hospital on Tuesday
Most of Tuesday's bomb victims appear to have been civilians
Iraqi PM Ibrahim Jaafari has vowed not to let sectarian violence derail work on a new government, after a week in which over 400 people died violently.

A government count of 379 dead and 458 wounded as of Tuesday afternoon was followed by news of at least 23 deaths in a blast at a Baghdad Shia mosque.

The count seems to be a response to US media reports of higher casualties.

The deaths follow a bomb attack on a Shia Muslim shrine in the city of Samarra last Wednesday.

US President George W Bush said Iraqis must choose either "chaos or unity".

'Inaccurate figures'

The week-long nationwide death count was released in what correspondents say is an unusual move for the Iraqi government.

It appears to have been a direct response to a figure of 1,300 dead, quoting a Baghdad mortuary official, published by the Washington Post newspaper.

"What was reported in a foreign newspaper were inaccurate and exaggerated numbers of victims," a cabinet statement said.

The BBC's Jim Muir in Baghdad says the latest attacks are an apparently co-ordinated onslaught aimed at killing and injuring as many people as possible.

They come, he notes, amid growing fears of a slide towards sectarian strife since the attack on the Shia shrine.

Blast after blast

At least 60 people died in bombings in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, on Tuesday alone.

More than 100 others were wounded in the attacks which saw three bombs going off within two minutes of each other earlier in the day in mixed areas of the city.

Car bombs targeted a market and a post office while the third blast happened when a man with explosives strapped to his body blew himself up in a queue of motorists waiting for petrol.

In incidents elsewhere in Iraq, two British soldiers were killed in Amara and at least two Iraqi policemen were shot dead in Mosul.

The violence came a day after the authorities lifted a daytime curfew on Baghdad, imposed to stop sectarian violence.

Iraq's national security adviser, Muwaffaq Rubaie, announced on Tuesday that four people were under arrest over the attack on the Shia shrine.

Political friction

Mr Jaafari, who is interim prime minister, said on a visit to Turkey that the violence would "never affect adversely efforts to set up a government and to ensure that the political process is successful".

His foreign trip has been criticised by the Iraqi President, Jalal Talabani.

As a caretaker prime minister, he said, Mr Jaafari had "no right to enter into talks or discussions with other countries".

The president is a Kurd from the north of Iraq while the interim prime minister is a leader of the dominant Shia bloc in parliament.

Mr Talabani suggested that the visit to Turkey did not meet with his assurance that he is committed to "group work".

Hamid al-Bayati, an Iraqi deputy foreign minister in the delegation visiting Turkey, told reporters there were "some difficulties".

"But we would rather have a strong, cohesive government and competent ministers than rush to set up the next government," he added.


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The aftermath of the explosions in Baghdad



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