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17 killed as Rumsfeld visits Iraq

By Atul Aneja

MANAMA, OCT. 10. At least 17 persons were killed in two separate bomb attacks in Baghdad as the U.S. Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, arrived there today to see for himself the prospects of holding elections in January.

A suicide bombing near the Oil Ministry, close to a police academy left several persons dead including many civilians.

The explosion left a big crater near the Ministry building, a frequent target for militants.

An official spokesman for the Iraqi interim Government in Baghdad said the bomb might have exploded early, leading to large civilian casualties.

The Associated Press quoted a policeman as saying that the victims included police recruits.

Several people were wounded in a separate attack by a suicide bomber near the Ministry of Culture.

As explosions rocked parts of Baghdad, Mr. Rumsfeld began his first visit to the restive Anbar province.

More U.S. troops

Addressing 1,500 marines and commanders at the Al-Asad desert airbase, Mr. Rumsfeld said the U.S. troop levels in Iraq were unlikely to be scaled down before Iraq's elections. Prior to his arrival in Iraq from Bahrain, Mr. Rumsfeld said more American troops could be sent to Iraq to facilitate the January elections.

Mr. Rumsfeld on Saturday met the Defence Ministers from 18 countries, who have troops either in Iraq or Afghanistan, aboard a U.S. aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf. With elections only three months away, U.S. authorities are making feverish efforts to contain resistance attacks in flashpoint locations such as Fallujah and Sadr City — a restive Shia slum of 2.5 million on the outskirts of Baghdad.

A spokesman for the Shia cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr, who has led two major revolts against the U.S. occupation this year, said a deal had been struck with the Americans. Mr. Al-Sadr's Mehdi Army, he said, would begin disarming from Monday, but the U.S. forces would also stop bombardment of Sadr City.

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