U.S.-Iraqi Forces Battle Insurgents; Iraqis Settle Some Cabinet Posts

A joint U.S.-Iraqi attack on dozens of insurgents in eastern Diyala province on Monday left two American soldiers and one Iraqi soldier dead, a U.S. military spokesman said, according to the Associated Press. The battle, which continued into Tuesday, also wounded two U.S. soldiers.

An abandoned taxi in Baghdad’s southern Dora neighborhood blew up on an expressway near a U.S. patrol on Tuesday, killing one U.S. soldier and injuring four others, said Sgt. 1st Class David Abrams, a spokesman for Task Force Baghdad.

Another explosion in the western province of Anbar killed a U.S. Marine on Monday.

The clashes followed an insurgent attack on Abu Ghraib jail west of Baghdad on Saturday. More than 40 U.S. soldiers and 12 prisoners were wounded in a battle that raged for about an hour.

At least 1,537 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, the AP reported.

Meanwhile, gunmen broke into a house Monday and kidnapped a top Interior Ministry official, Brig. Gen. Jala Mohammed Saleh, U.S. and Iraqi officials said. Saleh is involved in anti-insurgency operations in Iraq.

Iraqi security forces say the delay in forming a new government has benefited insurgents who are seeking to spread chaos, according to Reuters.

More than nine weeks after Iraqis voted in historic elections Jan. 30, politicians are still arguing over cabinet posts, although some progress was apparent.

Under a deal between the Islamist-led Shiite alliance that won a small majority in parliament and the Kurdish coalition that came second, veteran Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani is expected to be named president and the Shiite Ibrahim Jaafari will likely become prime minister.

Adel Abdul Mahdi, another Shiite, is expected to be named one of the two vice presidents. Politicians want to name a Sunni Arab as the other in order to include the minority that dominated Iraq under Saddam Hussein but won just 17 of the parliament’s 275 seats in the January vote, Reuters reported.

Political leaders said the president, two vice presidents and prime minister will likely be announced Wednesday at a meeting of parliament.

Once a prime minister is chosen, the person has two weeks to name a cabinet. Officials say disagreements remain over some key posts, including the oil ministry coveted by Shiites and Kurds, according to Reuters.