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Iraq demands Syria tighten its borders

5 more US troops are reported killed

BAGHDAD -- The Iraqi prime minister demanded yesterday that Syria do more to keep foreign fighters from crossing into western Iraq, where US troops are battling Al Qaeda-led forces. Five more American service members were reported killed.

Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari made his demand while appearing with visiting Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who pressed for unity among Iraq's religious factions during an unannounced and heavily guarded visit to the country, including one of its most ethnically divided regions.

Rice made a personal appeal to Sunni Arabs to participate in new elections in December, but she sounded cool to an outside Arab effort to foster political reconciliation. She also chided Iraq's Arab neighbors for being slow to send ambassadors to Iraq since the toppling of Saddam Hussein's regime.

''We do support the principles of democracy and support efforts to bridge the differences among Iraqis," Rice said after a meeting with Jaafari.

She also met privately in Baghdad with several prominent Sunni Arab leaders, including Vice President Ghazi al-Yawer.

Earlier, she met with Sunni and other leaders in the ethnically split northern city of Mosul, where Sunnis make up about 60 percent of the population.

Divisions ''may be differences of history or tradition, culture or ethnicity, but in a democratic process these differences can be a strength rather than a handicap," Rice said.

Jaafari told reporters that it was ''no secret" that foreign fighters were using Syrian territory to enter Iraq and the government had implored the Syrians to crack down on such movements.

''So we ask why the Syrians are not responding to our people's demands," Jaafari said. ''We demand that they control their borders, prevent infiltration and terrorism. We want good relations with Syria, but this cannot be achieved when such violations exist."

US troops launched a major offensive last week against Al Qaeda-led fighters near the border with Syria, an area the US command describes as the major entry point for foreign Islamic extremists responsible for many of the suicide attacks that have killed hundreds of Iraqis in recent weeks.

The US command reported yesterday that a Marine was killed the day before in a roadside bombing in Karabilah, about 200 miles west of Baghdad and one of the main border area villages where extremists operate. Two US soldiers were killed Thursday by small-arms fire during combat operations in Khaldiyah, 55 miles west of Baghdad, the military said. Two other US soldiers died in a traffic accident northwest of Kirkuk, the military said.

The deaths brought to 2,061 the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the war began in 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

Syria maintains that it has tried to curb infiltration across its borders and has accused US and Iraqi forces of failing to do their part to control the long desert frontier. The Syrians insist allegations against them are part of a US campaign to discredit their government for opposing the Iraq war.

Elsewhere, three Iraqi police officers were killed yesterday when their vehicle was ambushed near Baqubah.

In Baghdad, gunmen fired on the compound of the Embassy of Oman, killing two and wounding two -- the second fatal shooting involving employees of Arab embassies in Baghdad this week. One of the dead was a policeman and the other was an embassy employee, said police Major Falah al-Mohammedawi.

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