Iraq PM, Obama To Meet As Attacks Persist

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The need for Iraqi leaders to accelerate political reconciliation efforts to safeguard recent security gains in their country will be the main focus of talks between Iraq's prime minister and President Obama during a visit to Washington starting Tuesday.

The fragility of Iraq's security situation was underlined Tuesday as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki left for the United States. A series of bombings in Baghdad and west of the capital killed at least eight people and wounded dozens.

Security has improved in Iraq over the past two years, but insurgents still carry out regular attacks.

The latest wave of attacks comes three weeks after Iraqi forces took over responsibility for security in Baghdad and other cities following the completion on June 30 of U.S. troop withdrawal from urban areas.

The U.S-Iraqi security pact, which took effect on Jan. 1; prospects for U.S. private investment in Iraq; and political reconciliation will top al-Maliki's discussions in Washington with Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, lawmakers and business leaders.

A large part of Obama's Wednesday meeting with al-Maliki will be about political change that is needed for progress to occur in Iraq, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Monday.

"I have no doubt that that will take up a large part of the meeting with the prime minister," he said.

With six months left before Iraq's next general election, Iraq's main Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish groups remain sharply divided over a wide array of issues that range from how to share the country's vast oil wealth to the authority of the central government and political power-sharing.

The United States has consistently called on Iraq's political leaders to reach an enduring power-sharing formula to serve as the underpin for security. Without such a deal, the Americans and others have warned, Iraq could slip back into the kind of sectarian violence that tore the country in 2006 and 2007.

The United States has about 130,000 troops in Iraq at present, but all of its combat units will leave the country in August next year and the remainder by the end of 2011.

In Tuesday's violence, two people were killed when two bombs exploded a few seconds apart near a group of day laborers in the Shiite district of Sadr City in northeast Baghdad. Police said one bomb was hidden in a food stall and the other was concealed in a trash pile.

Ahmed Ali was working in a nearby bakery when the explosions occurred.

"After a few seconds, dust and smoke reached the bakery. We stayed inside because we feared other explosions might occur," Ali said. "After about five minutes, we went out to see what happened. We saw the bodies covered with blood and some food containers and construction tools scattered here and there."

Several hours later, a roadside bomb exploded near a market in Sadr City, killing 4 people, including two children and wounding at least 39 others, police said.

In the Dora district of south Baghdad, one person was killed and seven were wounded when a car bomb exploded near a wholesale produce market, police said.

In Ramadi, 70 miles (115 kilometers) west of Baghdad, police said a suicide car bomber killed one person and injured 19 others, including several children.

Ramadi is the capital of Anbar province, a former insurgent stronghold. Police in the province on Tuesday declared a two-day ban on the use of vehicles and motorcycles as they searched for suspects in a recent spate of bombings in Ramadi and nearby Fallujah.

This program aired on July 21, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.