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Two blasts have killed up to 18 people in Baghdad
Two blasts have killed up to 18 people, including an American soldier, in Baghdad hours before U.S. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld arrived to gauge efforts to calm violence ahead of January elections. The United States and its allies in Iraq are engaged in a battle of wills with insurgents, Rumsfeld told U.S. marines during an earlier stop at a desert airbase northwest of Baghdad. "They are hoping to cause members of the coalition to decide that the pain and the ugliness and the difficulty of the task is simply too great," Rumsfeld said. "They know they cannot defeat us militarily. But they are hoping they can win the test of wills. It's a battle of morale. It's a battle of perception," declared Rumsfeld, whose visit comes about three weeks before the U.S. presidential election. Rumsfeld, who held separate meetings with U.S. commanders, U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte and Iraqi interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi in Baghdad, arrived a few hours after two blasts brought more bloodshed to the capital. The first explosion was near the Oil Ministry and a nearby police academy soon after 7 a.m. on Sunday. Ministry spokesman Assem Jihad said 17 people had been killed by a suicide car bomb that may have gone off before it reached the police academy, where recruits were lining up, informs Reuters. At least 18 people, including an American soldier, were killed following two car bombings in Baghdad. The attacks occurred while Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld made a surprise visit to Iraq to speak with military leaders and U.S. Marines. The first car bomb exploded early Sunday near Iraq's Oil Ministry and a few-hundred meters from Baghdad's police academy. The powerful explosion killed scores of Iraqis, including seven women. Fifteen-minutes later, a suicide car bomber blew himself up as a coalition convoy was passing by. The car bombings occurred as U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld made an unannounced visit to Iraq. The secretary had breakfast with military leaders and then held a meeting with about 15-hundred Marines in an aircraft hangar in al-Asad airfield in Iraq's western desert. Mr. Rumsfeld told the troops he did not expect there to be any reduction in forces until after Iraqi elections are held in January. He said it was hoped, as Iraqi military forces increase, there would be a reduction in the level of coalition troops in Iraq. But, he also noted he expected violence in the country to increase before the January elections, reports VOA News. According to Xinhuanet, over the past weeks, Iraq's interim government and US forces have exerted various efforts in a bid to restore peace to the violence-wracked country in the run-up to the scheduled January 2005 elections. The efforts included peace deal with rebel militia and heavy-handed military attack against insurgency. The government announced Sunday that Shiite militia in the capital's Sadr City would be granted five days to disarm. National Security Adviser Qassim Dawoud said Iraqi police and the National Guards would take charge of the disarming process from Monday. Abdul al-Hadi al-Daraji, the radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's top representative in Baghdad, said Saturday that Sadr agreed to partially hand in weapons in a bid to end weeks-long skirmishes with US and Iraqi forces. "We have signed an agreement with the Iraqi government to disarm the Mehdi Army in Sadr City and the process will start on Monday," said al-Daraji. The proposal by Sadr's militia came after they secured promises from US troops to stop bombarding the slum, a Shiite stronghold in eastern Baghdad. Dawoud said the government would commit more than 500 million US dollar to rebuild the violence-wracked neighborhood. Militia, especially Sadr's aides who were currently detained by the authority, would also be released and the government agreed not to go after them, said Daraji. Meanwhile, intensive military campaigns designed to wrestle back controls of areas from insurgent hands were also underway. Both the flashpoint city of Fallujah, some 50 km west of Baghdad, and Samarra, some 120 km north of the capital, have witnessed some most fierce fighting between rebels and US-Iraqi forces, leaving hundred dead and thousand others wounded. Take Samarra as an example, the US offensive in the town have killed 110 people and wounded over 180 others. After these attacks, Washington indicated that the US administration has ordered to attack 30 other rebel-held cities. The attack on rebellious cities also served as deterrent to other insurgents, warning that they would confront the same fate if they carried on with resistance
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