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More than 20 die in attacks on Iraqi police, US troops

BAGHDAD -- Insurgents mounted deadly attacks on police and US soldiers in the region yesterday, as politicians facing an Aug. 15 deadline to draft a constitution resumed deliberations. Some officials expressed diminished confidence that the document will be completed on time.

A suicide car bomber attacked a convoy of US Army Humvees across the Tigris River from Baghdad's fortified Green Zone, killing a soldier and wounding two others. At least 12 Iraqis died in the afternoon blast.

''They kill 40 Iraqis to get one American. I am wondering, is there any one who will be able to stop this and make us live like we use to live before," said Hussein Saidi, 23, whose sells grapes along the roadside. ''Many of my friends were killed. God saved me. I do not know how."

Police were targeted in several assassination-style attacks across the capital; two were killed in a drive-by shooting in eastern Baghdad's Zayona neighborhood. At least 10 police officers were killed citywide yesterday, wire services reported.

And a Marine from the Second Marine Division, which has suffered heavy losses in recent days, was killed by small-arms fire in Ramadi, 60 miles west of Baghdad, the military said.

A US general said yesterday that the violence, which has claimed 33 US service members this month, probably would escalate as the process of drafting a constitution neared completion.

''If you look at the past few months, insurgents have not been able to sustain attacks, but they tend to surge every four weeks or so. We are right in the middle of one of those periods and predicted this would come," said Army Brigadier General Karl Horst, deputy commander of the Third Infantry Division, which oversees Baghdad. ''If they are going to influence the constitution process, they have only a few days left to do it, and we fully expect the attacks to continue."

Also yesterday, the mayor of Baghdad, Alaa al-Timimi, told The New York Times that armed members of a Shi'ite militia seized control of his offices Monday during a blinding sandstorm. According to a report in today's Times, Timimi was deposed by Hussein al-Tahaan, a member of the militia of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq. But a government spokesman, Laith Kubba, told the Associated Press that Timimi was fired Monday by Baghdad's provincial council.

The constitution-drafting process resumed yesterday after the sandstorm canceled Monday's scheduled negotiating sessions. Members of the main legislative factions drafting the document gathered last night at the home of President Jalal Talabani.

They were joined later by leaders of political blocs outside the Iraq Legislature, including Massoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdish Assembly, who was prevented by weather from traveling to Baghdad for two days. He arrived last night.

Barzani's presence is considered pivotal in the consideration of some of the thorniest unresolved issues. He is expected to push for broad autonomy for the Kurdish region of northern Iraq and for the return of ethnic Kurds to the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, near Kurdish borders.

Sunni Arabs do not oppose limited autonomy for Kurdistan, but fear the country will be split if the principle is extended to a Shi'ite Muslim state in southern Iraq.

Meanwhile, fighting continued in and around the northwestern city of Haditha yesterday, where Marines and Iraqi soldiers are in the fourth day of an offensive along the Euphrates River. US jets destroyed a pair of safe houses, killing at least seven insurgents, according to an Iraqi Army captain.

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