Nov 19, 2005 By Luke Baker

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Car bombs killed at least 48 people in Iraq on Saturday, a day after more than 80 died in suicide blasts across the country and as U.S. President George W. Bush pledged never to relent in his war on terror.

In the deadliest of Saturday's attacks, a suicide car bomber blew up his vehicle near crowded condolence tents during the funeral of a Shi'ite tribal sheikh in a town north of Baghdad.
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Police Colonel Muthaffar Aboud said 35 people were killed and around 50 wounded in the attack in Abu Sayda, near Baquba, a violent city about 65 km (40 miles) northeast of Baghdad.

Earlier, another suicide car bomber targeted a crowded market in the Diyala Bridge area of southern Baghdad, killing 13 people and wounding around 20, the Interior Ministry said.

The attacks followed twin suicide bombings at Shi'ite mosques in northeastern Iraq on Friday, strikes that appeared intent on aggravating the country's sectarian divisions, which have only worsened in the run-up to elections set for December 15.

On Saturday, Ibrahim Ahmed, a local government official in Khanaqin, the town where the mosques were attacked, played down reports that several people linked to the bombings had been arrested, saying there were no strong leads in the case.

The Khanaqin blasts followed two suicide car-bomb attacks on a Baghdad hotel popular with journalists and contractors. All told, Friday's violence left 83 people dead and more than 100 wounded, one of the bloodiest days for Iraq in recent months.

In Cairo, several dozen leaders from across Iraq's political and sectarian spectrum met to discuss the country's relentless insurgency and a way forward in talks sponsored by the Arab League. It was the highest level gathering so far organised between Iraqi government leaders and opposition figures.

Addressing U.S. troops in Osan, South Korea during a tour of Asia, Bush was unremitting in defense of the war in Iraq, saying troops would stay until victory and rejecting critics' calls for a timetable for the withdrawal of 135,000 U.S. troops.

He quoted a top U.S. commander in Iraq as saying that a deadline for pullout would be "a recipe for disaster," and said that as long as he was president, "our strategy in Iraq will be driven by the sober judgment of our military commanders."

"We will fight the terrorists in Iraq, we will stay in the fight until we have achieved the victory that our brave troops have fought for," said a leather jacket-clad Bush.
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* Blasts Kill 49 in Iraq; U.S. Troops Killed
* In China, Bush Urges Religious Freedom
* Double Dose of Terror

Ahead of December's election, Bush said there was cause for optimism. In the 2-1/2 years since Saddam Hussein was toppled, he said, Iraqis had elected a transitional government, ratified a constitution and were ready to vote on a permanent government.

"Iraq is making amazing progress from the days of being under the thumb of a brutal dictator," he said.

That view contrasts sharply with the feelings of many Iraqis who are frustrated by the lack of progress since Saddam's overthrow, including high unemployment, scant rebuilding, soaring corruption and a widespread lack of security.

CAIRO TENSIONS

Campaigning for the election has not begun in earnest, but already violence appears to be on the rise, mirroring the surge in bomb attacks and assassinations that took place in the buildup to elections held in January and October's referendum.

In Khanaqin, a mixed Shi'ite and Kurdish town that has seen little violence over the past 2-1/2 years, families buried their dead on Saturday. Men carried a stream of simple wooden coffins through a crowd of black-clad women wailing in mourning, before the procession moved to a nearby cemetery.

After one coffin was buried, a woman clawed angrily at the earth, as if trying to dig her husband or son back out.

U.S. and Iraqi forces have been conducting operations against Sunni Arab insurgents throughout western Iraq in recent weeks in an effort to stem the insurgency ahead of the election and increase the ability of Sunnis to make it to the polls.

At the last election in January, most Sunni Arabs either boycotted or were too scared by insurgent threats to vote, so the minority community, once influential under Saddam, ended up with next to no representation in parliament.

The United States is keen to bolster Sunni participation this time around in the hope that greater engagement in politics will draw support away from the insurgency and ultimately allow U.S. and other foreign troops to go home.

The three days of reconciliation talks in Cairo are seeking to achieve similar goals and within hours of the start had homed in on the disputes which have dragged Iraq close to civil war.
Top Stories

* Blasts Kill 49 in Iraq; U.S. Troops Killed
* In China, Bush Urges Religious Freedom
* Double Dose of Terror

While Shi'ite Muslim politicians condemned the insurgency, led mainly by Sunni Muslims, a leading Sunni politician said resistance was a legitimate response to U.S. occupation.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said religious extremists who advocate violence had no place in the political process.

(Additional reporting by Jonathan Wright, Waleed Ibrahim and Mohammed Abbas in Cairo, and Steve Holland in South Korea, Reuters Television in Khanaqin and Faris al-Mehdawi in Baquba)


source: http://abcnews.go.com/International/...ory?id=1328936