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Iraq

Bombings in Iraq, reconciliation in Irbil

Two car bombs and a suicide attack have killed at least 13 people at a fruit and vegetable market just north of Baghdad. Hundreds have been killed in recent months in Iraq in a series of retaliatory Sunni-Shiite attacks.

Three near-simultaneous bombings killed at least 13 people at a wholesale market in the mainly Shiite town of Jadidat al-Shatt, just outside of Baqouba, on Monday. Police and medical officials said 48 other people were wounded.

The detonations occurred while the market was packed with stall owners who were purchasing wholesale produce to sell to retail customers. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

On Sunday, seven people were killed by a car bomb in a mainly Shiite area in Baghdad. A suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden vehicle into an Iraqi army checkpoint in Baghdad's Kazimiyah neighborhood. It is the location of an intelligence service base and the Kadhimiya Shrine, a major Shi'ite Muslim religious site.

Police said five soldiers and two bystanders were killed, with a further 16 people wounded.

Iraq has been gripped by sectarian tensions since mass protests started in December in areas populated by the Sunni minority. Shiites have often been targets of hard-line Sunni insurgents. An all-out conflict in 2006-2007 left thousands dead.

Al-Maliki visits Kurdish Irbil

On Sunday, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and cabinet ministers made a rare visit to Irbil, the regional capital of Iraq's largely autonomous northern Kurdish region, for a regional cabinet session.

It was a bid to melt the ice between Iraq's Kurds and the Shiite-led central government headed by al-Maliki.

His cabinet was given a red carpet welcome by the Kurdish region's president, Massoud Barzani, who heads the increasingly prosperous northern region.

"The issue of reaching permanent solutions needs an atmosphere of understanding and mutual trust," al-Maliki said.

Barzani said the cabinet session in Irbil constituted "an important visit" and described it as a "start for removing all the problems."

The cabinet session was followed by talks between cabinet ministers and Kurdish regional ministers, and a direct meeting between Maliki and Barzani.

It was also the first such meeting in the Kurdish capital since 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein

For years, Irbil and Baghdad have been locked in a bitter dispute over oil and land rights.

ipj/dr (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)