Deaths of U.S. Soldiers Climb Again in Iraq
Published: April 12, 2006

BAGHDAD, Iraq, April 11 — The American military on Tuesday announced the deaths of five soldiers, bringing the number of troops killed this month to at least 32. That figure already surpasses the American military deaths for all of March.

When 31 service members died last month, it was the second lowest monthly death toll of the war for the Americans, and the fifth month in a row of declining fatalities, according to statistics from the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count, an independent organization.

But deaths have begun to soar. Many of the fatalities this month have taken place in the parched Anbar Province, the heart of the Sunni Arab insurgency. The province was rated "critical" in a confidential report written recently by the American Embassy and the military command in Baghdad. Though sectarian violence has recently overshadowed anti-American attacks in much of central Iraq, there are relatively few Shiites in Anbar, so much of the insurgency's venom is directed at the Americans there.

The military said three soldiers were killed in a roadside bomb explosion north of Baghdad on Tuesday. A soldier died Monday from wounds sustained the previous day in combat in Anbar, and a soldier was killed Sunday by a roadside bomb near Balad.

As the insurgency raged, political tirades burst forth in the capital on Tuesday. Incensed by what he called anti-Shiite remarks from the Egyptian president, the Iraqi prime minister said Tuesday that Iraq would boycott a conference of Middle East foreign ministers in Cairo on Wednesday.

The prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, who is fighting to keep his job, said at a news conference that the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, had defamed Iraq and its majority Shiite population by saying in a television interview last Saturday that the Shiites here are more loyal to Iran than to Iraq.

"We hope that others would remind themselves to support the Iraqi people and never spoil the Arab identity of Iraq," Mr. Jaafari said. The Shiites in Iraq are mostly Arabs, while those in Iran are primarily Persians. Many Iraqi Shiites fought against Iranians in the Iran-Iraq war from 1980 to 1988. A million people died.

Even so, the Iranian government gave refuge to several prominent Shiite political parties that were oppressed during Saddam Hussein's rule. One was Mr. Jaafari's party, the Islamic Dawa Party. Another was Dawa's main rival, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, which is now trying to unseat Mr. Jaafari as the prime minister.

Iraqi Shiite officials said Tuesday that they had still not resolved the dispute over the post of prime minister. Talks to form a new government are deadlocked over the issue, because the Sunni Arab, Kurdish and secular blocs — as well as some Shiites — are demanding the withdrawal of Mr. Jaafari's nomination. The biggest bloc in the 275-member Parliament, in this case the Shiites, has the constitutional right to nominate a prime minister, who then must be approved by Parliament.

Mr. Jaafari won the nomination in February after a closely contested vote among the 130-member Shiite bloc. Now, in light of opposition to Mr. Jaafari, several Shiite groups have announced they are ready to put forward their own candidates. These groups include the Supreme Council and the Fadhila Party.

Shiite leaders met Tuesday but did not reach any agreement on the issue, said Redha Jowad Taki, a political officer for the Supreme Council.

One independent member of the Shiite bloc who declined to speak for attribution said that some Dawa officials were ready to withdraw Mr. Jaafari's nomination but that Mr. Jaafari insisted on keeping his job.

As the talks inch along, other Iraqi leaders say the country has already spiraled down into civil war. One of them is Ayad Allawi, the former prime minister and a White House ally. He told Reuters on Tuesday that the "new form of terrorism" here is "ideological, political and sectarian terror."

"We must be aware and not bury our head in the soil and say the situation in Iraq is good," he said.

A bomb hidden in a minibus exploded in the Shiite enclave of Sadr City in Baghdad on Tuesday afternoon, killing at least three people and wounding nine, an Interior Ministry official said.

Abdul Razzaq al-Saiedi contributed reporting for this article.