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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 December 2006, 20:01 GMT
Iraq PM sets reconciliation talks
The wreckage of a car bomb at the site where the 15 employees of a Shia group were killed
Iraq has been gripped by daily sectarian violence
Iraqi leaders are to meet later this month to seek agreement to end sectarian killings, Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has announced.

"We will agree on a charter of honour to end the bloodshed of Iraqis and sectarian conflict," Mr Maliki said.

He also said Iraq planned to organise a conference with Iraq's neighbours aimed at stemming the spiralling unrest.

Iraq has seen daily sectarian violence between Shia and Sunni communities - 36 died on Tuesday in Baghdad alone.

In northern Baghdad, at least 15 people died and several were injured when gunmen attacked a bus carrying civilian employees of a Shia religious group.

Shortly afterwards, at least 15 people were killed and some 25 wounded in three car bomb blasts near a petrol station in a south-western district.

A US soldier was killed and five injured when gunmen attacked a military convoy in the Iraqi capital on Monday, the US military said.

On Tuesday, the US said it expected all of Iraq would be under the control of Iraqi forces by mid-2007.

"We would expect to see the entire country having reached provincial Iraqi control by early fall of next year," Maj Gen William Caldwell said at a news conference in Baghdad.

"We should see the complete transfer of command and control of all Iraqi army divisions by late spring, early summer."

Regional talks

"In support of the declared National Reconciliation Initiative, the meeting of the political forces will convene in mid-December," Mr Maliki told journalists in Baghdad.

"All Iraq political figures, parties, and organizations - whether members of the political process or otherwise - will take part in the conference in order to sustain national unity," Mr Maliki said.

Once a favourable political climate is created, we will call for a regional conference
Nouri Maliki
Iraq Prime Minister

The prime minister first announced the 24-point national reconciliation plan in June.

The Iraqi prime minister also said Iraqi envoys were being sent to neighbouring countries "to encourage the governments of these brotherly and friendly states to contribute to promoting security and stability in Iraq and supporting the efforts by the Iraqi Government to face terrorism and outlaw groups".

"Once a favourable political climate is created, we will call for a regional conference, which will be attended by these countries that are keen on Iraq's security and stability and that are willing to commit themselves to assisting the Iraqi people."

He did not specify which countries would be invited - or when the regional conference would take place.

'Civil war'

Earlier, Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh said both his government and the US had to talk to Iran and Syria if they were to deal with the growing violence.

He told the BBC Iraq had depended too much on Washington, forgetting its neighbours.

On Monday, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan told the BBC the violence was "much worse" than a civil war.

The Iraqi government dismissed Mr Annan's suggestion, saying life was much worse under ousted leader Saddam Hussein.

The victims of the bus attack in northern Baghdad were employees of the Shia Endowment - a body that oversees religious sites and mosques.

The gunmen first set off a car bomb before spraying the bus with bullets.

The car blasts in the south-west of the city happened at about 0945 local time (0745 GMT) in a mixed Sunni and Shia area, police said.

Most of the victims were people queuing for petrol.

Another car bomb exploded in Baghdad's Shia neighbourhood of Amil, killing two people, while another two where killed in a mortar attack on a Baghdad market.

A roadside bomb targeted an Iraqi army convoy in the largely Sunni Yarmouk district, killing two troops and injuring four.

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