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U.S. Sweep Nabs Iraqi Brass

The U.S. military said Monday it had nabbed six former regime leaders in the latest sweep aimed at snuffing out elements that have attacked and killed American troops.

But violence against U.S. forces erupted again in west Baghdad, where one American soldier was killed and six wounded in the attack by insurgents who fired several rocket-propelled grenades at the military convoy early Monday, said Spc. Giovanni Llorente, a military spokesman.

The military said 226 people had been captured in the sweep, dubbed Operation Ivy Serpent. It said six former regime leaders were among them. None, however, appeared to be part of a list of 55 most wanted fugitives from the old regime. No Iraqi civilians or coalition troops have been killed in the operation.

Meanwhile, the new governing council — a U.S.-sanctioned first step toward democracy in postwar Iraq — voted Monday to send a delegation to the U.N. Security Council.

In other developments:

  • The attack that killed the U.S. soldier may have been timed to coincide with the 45th anniversary of the end of the Iraqi monarchy — the first of three July holidays that could set the stage for strikes against American forces.
  • Thousands of people — including Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds — attended a ceremony in honor of the possible successor to the long-deposed Iraqi throne.
  • A group claiming to be an Iraqi branch of al Qaeda said it — and not Saddam — is behind recent attacks on U.S. forces, according to a videotape aired on an Arab TV station Sunday. The U.S. Central Command said it could not comment on the tape.
  • Bush administration officials now argue that the claim that Iraq tried to buy uranium from Africa, which the president made in his State of the Union speech but was withdrawn last week because the evidence appears flawed, was technically correct because it was attributed to British intelligence. The British stand by the claim.

    The soldier's death brought to 32 the number of American soldiers killed in hostile action since President Bush declared an end to major fighting on May 1.

    The violence followed an apparent failed car-bombing Sunday night on a police station full of U.S. soldiers and Iraqi police, local police said.

    A white Volkswagen was destroyed and a badly mangled and headless body lay nearby, said police Sgt. Adel Shakir. He said the body was thought to have been one of two men who were attempting to get the explosive-packed car near the station.

    Also Sunday, at least one Iraqi was killed and five wounded in a shooting incident involving U.S. troops in Baqouba, north of the capital. The U.S. military said Monday that American soldiers opened fire after the car turned off its headlights and tried to run a checkpoint at about 11:20 p.m.

    However, the Arabic-language Al-Jazeera television network quoted witnesses as saying the car was filled with a family on its way to a hospital. It said one child and an adult were killed in the shooting, and several others were wounded.

    Later Monday, an explosion destroyed an empty car in a parking lot used primarily by journalists to cover events at the Baghdad Convention Center, near where the council had met earlier in the day and the site of most press conferences given by coalition officials.

    Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld warned Sunday that it could be a long, hot and deadly summer for American forces in Iraq. Besides the date of the 1958 coup on Monday, there is also the July 16 anniversary of Saddam's taking power and the July 17 anniversary of the Baath party's 1968 takeover.

    There are about 150,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. Rumsfeld would say only that they may be there for the "foreseeable future," and the number could be increased if necessary.

    Rumsfeld dismissed concerns that the United States may be getting bogged down in Iraq and he vowed to stay the course.

    "Is it an important thing to be doing? Yes. Is it tough? You bet. Are more people going to be killed? You bet. Does it cost some money? You bet. Can we tell the world or anybody else precisely what it's going to cost or how long it's going to last? No," he said.

    With the U.S. military still struggling on the security front establishment of the interim council was a major political step, giving an Iraqi face to the U.S.-led occupation of the country.

    The council, which was announced to the world on Sunday, will have real political muscle with the power to name ministers and approve the 2004 budget. But final control of Iraq still rests with L. Paul Bremer — the U.S. administrator of Iraq and a major architect of the council.

    At the close of its first full day of business, the council voted to send a delegation to the U.N. Security Council that would "assert and emphasize the role of the governing council as a legitimate Iraqi body during this transitional period."

    The governing council — which brings together Iraq's diverse mosaic of Shiites, Sunnis, Kurds, Christians and ethnic Turks — also formed three committees to outline an order of business for the coming weeks and work out organizational issues, said Hoshyar Zebari, a spokesman for the council.

    In a deeply symbolic first public action during its inaugural session Sunday, the governing council set April 9 — the day Baghdad fell to U.S. forces — as a national holiday and banned celebrations of six dates important to Saddam and his Baath Party.

    The council had planned to select a leader during Monday's session, but Zebari said that would be done later.

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