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Iraqi lawmakers confront Iran with 'evidence' of militia backing

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  • NEW: Delegation arrives in Tehran, Iran, Islamic Republic news agency says
  • Lawmakers will tell Tehran arming militants is bad for Iraq, Iraqi leader's aide says
  • Women and children among casualties in double suicide bombing
  • Official: It's the fourth time in 11 days a female suicide bomber strikes
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraqi lawmakers were making a "brief" visit to Iran to confront officials there with "sufficient evidence of Iran's support for militias and outlaws in Iraq," Iraqi officials said Thursday.

Lt. Gen. Carter Ham says U.S. military commanders are not seeing signs of Iran's pledge to stop arming militants.

The delegation arrived in Tehran, the Islamic Republic's state-run news agency IRNA said, and its members were meeting with Iranian officials to discuss Iraqi security issues.

Sami al-Askari, an adviser to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, said parliament members from the ruling United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), the Shiite coalition, intend to discuss how Iran's training and arming of militias is harmful for Iraq -- and for Iran as a neighbor. This comes amid comments Wednesday from U.S. military officials that the Iraqi government has evidence of Iranian support to militants in Iraq.

While al-Askari said it is likely the lawmakers will meet with security officials linked to Iraq, they are also seeking a meeting with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader.

They don't have plans to meet with Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose Mehdi Army militia members are said to be battling U.S. and Iraqi forces in Sadr City. Al-Sadr is in Iran.

More than 900 people -- fighters and civilians -- have been killed in Sadr City fighting since late March, with 17 others slain over the last 24 hours, according to the U.S. military.

In the latest incident, on Thursday afternoon, the military said troops launched "a precision airstrike in Sadr City against a known Iranian-sponsored senior Special Groups leader." Special Groups is the term used by the U.S. military to describe Shiite militants. The military said "one enemy was killed in action."

Meanwhile, Al-Askari said the delegation that traveled to Iran went as a result of a UIA leadership decision. He stressed that al-Maliki did not send the group on the mission.

Mahmoud Othman, a Kurdish lawmaker, also told CNN about the delegation and its intention to provide evidence, confessions and pictures indicating that Iran is supplying weapons and training fighters inside Iraq.

Bush administration officials said Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' Quds Force has provided training and weapons for militants in Iraq.

"Just know that the evidence inside of Baghdad has been shared with the Iraqi leadership, and that's where it stands right now," said Marine Lt. Gen. John Sattler, director of strategy, plans and policy for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at a news conference at the Pentagon Wednesday.

Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and others have said they are not seeing signs of Iran's pledged commitment to curtail the flow of fighters and material from Iran into Iraq, said Army Lt. Gen. Carter Ham, head of operations for the Joint Chiefs.

Sattler said the issue is "in Prime Minister al-Maliki's hands right now, the evidence as to whether or not he's been lied to -- baldfaced lied to -- by the Iranian government."

Al-Sadr spokesman Sheikh Salah al-Obeidi criticized the move to send the delegation to Iran, saying the issue should be settled at home between Sadrists and the Iraqi government.

Another attack came as the Iraqi lawmakers were making their visit to Iran. A pair of suicide bombers blew themselves up amid a wedding convoy Thursday in northeastern Iraq, killing 35 people and wounding 76 others, Iraqi authorities said.

The attack took place on a main street in a market area in Balad Ruz, northeast of Baghdad in Diyala province, the official said.

A wedding convoy was driving slowly when the first suicide bomber detonated an explosive vest, the official said. When bystanders and police gathered, a second bomb exploded.

One of the bombers was a woman, the official said.

It was the fourth female suicide bomber in Iraq in 11 days.

Balad Ruz is about 25 miles (40 km) east of the provincial capital, Baquba, and about nearly 45 miles (70 km) northeast of Baghdad.

Other developments

At least nine people, including a U.S. soldier, were killed and 21 others wounded Thursday in a car bombing in central Baghdad, the U.S. military and an Iraqi Interior Ministry official said. National Police arrested a man who allegedly pushed a button of a remote device to blow up the vehicle. The number of U.S. service members killed in the Iraq war stands at 4,065, including eight Defense Department civilians, according to the Pentagon.Video Watch how rocket attacks in Sadr City destroyed a school »


U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, proposed a ban on U.S. military funding of Iraqi reconstruction projects costing more than $2 million. The Michigan Democrat called it "unconscionable" and "inexcusable" that the United States pay for such large-scale infrastructure projects when, he said, Iraq is exporting 2.5 million barrels of oil per day and running a budget surplus.

• American soldiers killed six people and detained 10 others in raids targeting the Sunni militant group al Qaeda in Iraq. The raids were in the Mansour area of Baghdad, the Tigris River Valley, Baiji, Abu Ghraib, Tuz and Mosul. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Jomana Karadsheh, Mohammed Tawfeeq and Joe Sterling contributed to this report.

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