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Iraq Transition

Car bombs kill U.S. soldier, Iraqi

Kurd expected to become president while Saddam watches

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Saddam Hussein will be allowed to watch the assembly.

The Iraqi assembly elects a Sunni Arab as speaker.

Some signs suggest the insurgency may be weakening in Iraq.

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraq's political process inched forward as the violence continued Tuesday, with one U.S. soldier killed, the fourth American in two days. An Iraqi soldier, an Iraqi civilian and eight insurgents were also killed in separate incidents.

Two car bombs exploded at nearly the same time Tuesday morning in Baghdad, killing two people and injuring at least six others, police and military officials said.

A bomb in an abandoned taxi struck a U.S. Army patrol in southern Baghdad's al-Doura neighborhood, said a spokesman for the 3rd Infantry Division. A soldier was killed and four others wounded.

In the second instance, an Iraqi civilian was killed and two others injured when a bomb in a parked car exploded as an Iraqi military convoy passed near a gas station in Amiriya, on Baghdad's western outskirts, Iraqi police said. The blast damaged nearby homes and military vehicles.

The number of American dead in the Iraq war stands at 1,542.

In other violence, an Iraqi general working for the country's Interior Ministry was kidnapped Tuesday in Baghdad, authorities said.

Gen. Jalal Mohammed Salah is the commander of a mechanized armored brigade. No further details were available.

Firefight northeast of Baghdad

A battle between Iraqi and U.S. forces and insurgents Monday afternoon left two U.S. soldiers and an Iraqi soldier dead in Diyala province, northeast of Baghdad, U.S. military officials said Tuesday.

The firefight began when Iraqi army battalions conducting a cordon-and-search operation came under insurgent attack.

The insurgents used small arms fire, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars.

Ground and air teams of the Army National Guard's 42nd Infantry Division, which is headquartered in New York state, moved in to provide support for the Iraqi forces.

The battle lasted until early evening before the insurgents abandoned their positions, a division spokesman said.

A U.S. Marine also died Monday in an explosion during combat in Anbar province, military officials said Tuesday.

South of Baghdad, meanwhile, up to four U.S. troops were wounded Tuesday when they came under fire from insurgents, according to Pentagon officials.

The troops called for close air support, and a U.S. Navy F-18 jet dropped at least one bomb on an insurgent position.

It marked the first time in weeks U.S. forces had to call for close air support to protect against an insurgent attack. The Pentagon said an unknown number of insurgents were killed or wounded.

National Assembly to convene

After experiencing a news blackout while in prison, Saddam Hussein will have the opportunity to watch a video feed Wednesday of Iraq's National Assembly when it convenes, said Bakhtiar Amin, the interim human rights minister.

Jalal Talabani -- longtime leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan -- is expected to be sworn in as Iraqi president during Wednesday's session.

Ibrahim al-Jaafari, a Shiite from the Dawa Party, eventually is expected to become prime minister.

The 275-member assembly moved toward forming a new government Sunday by electing a Sunni Arab as speaker and a Kurd and Shiite as deputy speakers. (Full story)

Saddam's former regime -- largely made up of Sunni Arabs -- persecuted Kurds and Shiites while in power.

Saddam and 10 associates are being held for trial. His aides also will be allowed to watch the proceeding, Amin said.

"They will be seeing what's happening in Iraq for the first time since the fall of the regime," Amin said Tuesday.

Ahead of the assembly meeting, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad issued a security warning to Americans in Iraq.

"There is an elevated risk of attacks by insurgents trying to disrupt these proceedings," the message said.

After choosing a new government -- which has been delayed by coalition negotiations after the January 30 elections -- the assembly will write a permanent constitution to be put to the voters.

A half-brother of Saddam is likely to be the first to face trial on human rights charges before the Iraqi Special Tribunal, Amin said.

Amin also said about 6,000 people were killed following Saddam's ouster in 2003 "at the hands of terrorist groups," citing the widespread release of criminals from jails before the U.S.-led invasion.

There has been no official figure for the overall number of Iraqis killed since the conflict began, but some nongovernment estimates have ranged from 10,000 to 30,000.

Other developments

  • U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Tuesday announced President Bush's intention to nominate Zalmay Khalilzad as ambassador to Iraq, a senior State Department official said. Khalilzad is the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan. He would replace John Negroponte, who has been nominated to be national director of intelligence. (Full story)
  • American forces killed eight insurgents and wounded a CBS stringer in separate incidents Tuesday in the northern city of Mosul, the U.S. military said. The journalist, who was handling a video camera, was taken to a military hospital with minor wounds and is expected to recover, the military said. "Regretfully the reporter was injured during the complex and volatile situation," a military statement said, adding that the incident is under investigation. A source said the journalist is an Iraqi.
  • A shooting that killed a Bulgarian soldier last month was a "tragic accident," according to an investigation by the Multinational Corps. A report said the incident "resulted from U.S. and Bulgarian forces firing on each other in response to what each believed to be a hostile act from a legitimate military target." It added that "no further investigation or administrative action is required." Jr. Sgt. Gardi Gardev died in the incident southeast of Diwaniya March 4. (Full story)
  • CNN's Kevin Flower and Enes Dulami contributed to this report.

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