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Iraq Transition

Insurgents target oil sources, cause massive infernos

Story Highlights

• Insurgents target key oil sites near Kirkuk and in Baghdad
• A U.S. fighter jet crashes in Iraq with one pilot aboard
• Iraq's president arrives in Tehran to meet with his Iranian counterpart
• Bush is set to talk with Iraq's prime minister later this week in Jordan
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Insurgents Monday targeted key oil sites in Iraq, firing mortar rounds into an oil distribution center in northern Iraq and bombing a pipeline in a southern suburb of Baghdad, Iraqi officials said.

The attack on the oil distribution center triggered a massive fire that halted the flow of crude oil to Iraq's largest refinery, a Kirkuk police official said.

The attack happened around 6:30 p.m. (10:30 a.m. ET) in Baiji, which is about 15 miles (25 km) northwest of Kirkuk, the police official said.

Iraqi army and civil defense personnel were still on the scene hours later trying to put out the fire.

Smoke from the blaze could been seen from miles away.

The refinery in Baiji has a daily production level of about 8.5 million liters of gasoline, 7.5 million liters of diesel and 6.5 million liters of white oil.

The second attack -- a bomb planted beneath an oil pipeline in the al-Rashid district -- also started a fire at around 11 a.m., an official with Iraqi civil defense said, adding that the civil defense put out the fire in about 2 hours.

The pipeline carries crude oil from storage tanks near Latifiya, south of Baghdad, to the Dora refinery in the capital.

Further south, in Muqdadiya, gunmen Monday stormed a mobile phone store, killed the owner and planted explosives which later detonated as people gathered inside, killing four people and wounding 25 others, an official with Diyala Joint Coordination Center told CNN.

That attack happened at 5 p.m. (9 a.m. ET). Muqdadiya is about 25 miles (40 km) north of Baquba.

High stakes meetings

In the midst of the violence, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani traveled to Iran and President Bush began a trip that will take him to the Middle East and a meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

Talabani's meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, originally scheduled for Saturday, was delayed when Iraq closed Baghdad International Airport and imposed a curfew after more than 200 people were killed Thursday in the capital's Shiite slum of Sadr City.

Police called it the single worst attack since the war began.

Joining Talabani on the Iran trip is Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari as well as the ministers of oil, education, industry, science and technology and a number of Iraqi lawmakers, Talabani's office said.

Iraq's government and the Bush administration are under pressure to look beyond the country's borders to bring an end to the ongoing violence. (Watch why pressure is mounting on Bush and al-Maliki Video)

The United States has refused to negotiate with Iran and Syria about helping to bring stability to Iraq, accusing both Tehran and Damascus of aiding insurgent groups in Iraq.

But a draft report by the Iraq Study Group, which is considering Iraq strategy, urges an aggressive regional diplomatic initiative that includes direct talks with Iran and Syria, according to The New York Times on Monday.

Iraq restored diplomatic relations with Syria last week when Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem visited Baghdad. Ties had been cut in 1982 when Damascus backed Iran in its war with Iraq.

On Sunday, Iran's president said his country was willing to take a more active role in Iraq's future.

Ahmadinejad offered to help the United States "put an end to the present situation" in Iraq, on the condition that Washington stop its "bullying" there and revise its approach in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, Bush is scheduled to talk with al-Maliki in Amman, Jordan, on Wednesday and Thursday, following a NATO meeting in Latvia. (Full story)

Both al-Maliki and Bush face political pressure at home over the meeting and the future of Iraq.

On Friday, anti-U.S. Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's bloc threatened to withdraw support for al-Maliki if the meeting with Bush goes ahead as planned. (Watch show of force by al-Sadr's followers Video)

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Monday he believes Iraq is "almost" in a civil war.

"I think given the developments on the ground, unless something is done drastically and urgently to arrest the deteriorating situation, we could be there, and in fact we are almost there," Annan told reporters. (Full story)

U.S. fighter jet crashes outside Baghdad

A U.S. Air Force F-16CG fighter jet crashed at 1:35 p.m. (5:35 a.m. ET) Monday outside Baghdad while making a "strafing run" -- firing on targets at a low altitude -- an American military official in Baghdad said.

The aircraft was carrying one pilot, but the military, which is investigating, would not disclose whether the pilot survived.

A Pentagon source said the plane was operating near Falluja, which is about 30 miles west of Baghdad.

Al-Jazeera TV aired video of what it said was smoldering wreckage of the F-16. The footage showed pieces of the aircraft, including the tail, which displays an aircraft number and an Air Combat Command logo.

Other violence

• Iraqi police found 39 bullet-riddled, unidentified bodies in Baghdad and 12 in Baquba.

• Gunmen kidnapped three Iraqi facility protection services guards (FPS) outside the Baghdad Municipality building in central Baghdad around noon, the official said. A guard was wounded in the ensuing clash with the gunmen.

• In the eastern Baghdad neighborhood of al-Talbiya, gunmen abducted four brothers and killed a fifth brother after he resisted, the official said. The kidnapping happened around 4 p.m.

• Three Iraqis were killed and 15 others wounded in a mortar attack on a residential area in the southeastern Baghdad district of Jisser Diyala around 2 p.m., the official said.

• Two Iraqi police officers were killed Monday during a police raid on houses in the southern Baghdad neighborhood of Abu Dshir, the official said. Police detained 11 suspected terrorists and a number of weapons, according to the official.

• An Iraqi police patrol was also attacked by gunmen in the western Baghdad neighborhood of Yarmouk, the emergency police official said. One police officer was killed and four other police were wounded in the attack, which happened around 5 p.m.

CNN's Jamie McIntyre, Richard Roth and Mohammed Tawfeeq and journalist Shirzad Bozorgmehr contributed to this report.

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