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Iraq Transition

Iraqi officials nearing constitution deadline

Authorities report 19 deaths in recent violence



• Interactive: Who's who in Iraq
• Interactive: Sectarian divide



BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Top Iraqi government officials worked furiously Sunday on a draft of a new constitution while violence across the nation left at least 19 people dead over the past 24 hours.

Iraqi political leaders from the Shiite Arab, Sunni Arab and Kurdish communities were scheduled to meet early Sunday night at the home of President Jalal Talabani to discuss differences over the draft, which must be completed by August 15 and put before voters by October 15.

The unresolved issues in the constitution include aspects of federalism, the status of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk in northern Iraq and the roles of women and religion.

U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad issued a statement Sunday urging the leaders to create a document that will "ensure a vibrant and healthy relationship between the people and government of Iraq, and create trust within its institutions."

"All sides will need to make compromises, but should feel that their essential needs are met," Khalilzad said. "The United States believes strongly that the Iraqi constitution should provide equal rights before the law for all Iraqis regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, religion or sect."

U.S. officials have said one of the keys to quelling the insurgency is making progress in the political process.

Violence continued throughout country, with gunmen striking in Baghdad and Baquba, and deadly bombings in two northern cities.

In Tikrit, a suicide bomber blew up a fuel tanker Sunday about noon near the Iraqi police headquarters, killing two officers and wounding 10 others, an official with the governor's office said.

Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's ancestral homeland, is about 90 miles (144 kilometers) north of Baghdad.

Two U.S. soldiers died Saturday near Samarra, 75 miles (121 kilometers) north of Baghdad, after their vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb, U.S. military officials said.

The soldiers were taken to a hospital, where the two were pronounced dead, authorities said. Three other soldiers were wounded.

A suicide car bomber killed a U.S. Marine in the western Iraqi village of Amiriya on Saturday, the U.S. military said.

The Marine was assigned to Regimental Combat Team 8 of the 2nd Marine Division in Anbar province.

The number of U.S. deaths in the Iraq war stands at 1,829, including 31 this month.

In Baghdad, gunmen killed 10 people, including three Iraqi soldiers.

The Iraqi soldiers were shot dead while driving in civilian clothes to their base early Sunday, a police official said. A fourth soldier was wounded in the attack, which occurred in the southwestern neighborhood of Saydiyya.

Gunmen killed two Iraqi Oil Ministry employees in their car early Sunday, an Iraqi police official said. The shooters also wounded two other ministry employees while they were in the New Baghdad district of southeastern Baghdad.

On Saturday night, two people were killed in the capital's southwestern Bayaa neighborhood, a police official said. Gunmen killed Haider Harbi, an employee of the Independent Electoral Commission in Iraq, and Mehdi Abbas, a member of the Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution in Iraq's Shiite party.

The two men were walking together near their homes when the attack occurred, police said.

Two Sunni Arab leaders and a driver were gunned down Sunday in southeastern Baghdad in a drive-by shooting, police said.

Sheikh Saad Rashid al-Amiri, chief of Albushibl tribe, Jasim Mohammed al-Dulaimi, chief of the Albusoda tribe, and their driver were killed in the Campsara neighborhood, police said.

Gunmen also struck in Baquba, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) north of the capital.

Two police officers in the capital of Diyala province were slain in a drive-by shooting, police said. Five other people, including four police officers, were wounded in three separate attacks, police said.

In Iraq's second largest city of Mosul, the U.S. military said 32 people were detained and one suspected insurgent was killed in raids on Saturday and Sunday.

Protest in southern Iraq ends violently

One person was killed and 50 people were wounded when police in the Shiite city of Samawa battled with demonstrators Sunday, protesters said.

More than 1,000 residents of the town, about 143 miles (230 kilometers) south of Baghdad, protested a lack of water, electricity and jobs, and called for the provincial governor to resign when police began shooting.

Protesters said Samawa police began firing randomly at them and gunmen wearing black appeared to be helping the police.

The U.S. military said it will investigate the incident.

Other developments

  • A mother whose son was killed in Iraq said that she is prepared to remain camped outside President Bush's ranch through August until she is granted an opportunity to speak with him. Cindy Sheehan's 24-year-old son, Casey, was killed in Baghdad's Sadr City in April 2004. She said she met with the president shortly after her son was killed, but that she was so distraught she failed to ask the questions she now wants answered.
  • Coalition forces in Mosul found a letter July 27 listing problems in the insurgency and offering solutions. The letter, written by a man saying he is emir of the farming reform battalion on the west side of the city, said insurgent leaders are incompetent and suicide bombings focus on numbers and not quality. The missive was intended for terrorist mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, authorities said.(Full story)
  • CNN's Cal Perry, Elaine Quijano, Aneesh Raman and Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report.

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