Thursday, November 09, 2006

Iraqis do not want us there, either

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Nearly simultaneous car bombs struck two markets in predominantly Shiite areas of Baghdad on Thursday, killing at least 16 people, and the Iraqi government offered its first overall casualty estimate for the war.

Iraq's Health Minister Ali al-Shemari said about 150,000 Iraqis have been killed by insurgents since the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

For every person killed about three have been wounded in violence since the war started in March 2003, al-Shemari told reporters during a visit to Vienna. He did not explain how he arrived at the figure, which is three times most other estimates.

The health minister, a senior Shiite official linked to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, also said the United States should hand Iraqis full control of its army and police force. Doing so, he said, would allow the Iraqi government to bring the violence under control within six months.

"The army of America didn't do its job ... they tie the hands of my government," al-Shemari said.

"They should hand us the power, we are a sovereign country," he said, adding that as a first step, U.S. soldiers should leave Iraq's cities.