Bremer Escaped Iraq Attack Two Weeks Ago

U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer escaped a rebel ambush on his convoy two weeks ago, authorities said Friday. An explosion, meanwhile, struck the office of a major Shiite party, killing an Iraqi woman.

Also Friday, a roadside bomb exploded near a U.S. military truck outside Baghdad, wounding two U.S. soldiers, the military said.

Nobody was injured in the attack on Bremer's convoy on Dec. 6, the same day as a visit by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, a spokesman said. "As you can see, it didn't succeed," Bremer told reporters Friday in Basra.

Coalition spokesman Dan Senor said there was no evidence of a planned assassination attempt on Bremer and that it was "premature" to suggest otherwise, since his trip was unscheduled and on a much-traveled and frequently attacked route.

"It was probably a random kind of attack," he told a news conference. "Attacks occur there all the time and he happened to drive through it."

Bremer was riding in an armored car near the Baghdad airport when a roadside bomb exploded and guerrillas attacked with small arms fire, but his convoy sped away, Senor, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition.

Bremer has not curtailed his schedule of touring Iraq since then, Senor said. The White House would not comment on why U.S. officials did not disclose earlier the attack on Bremer. Spokesman Scott McClellan referred questions to the coalition in Baghdad.

Responding to reports that a briefcase seized along with Saddam Hussein on Saturday contained a list of insurgents who had infiltrated the Coalition Provisional Authority as spies, Senor said he had no knowledge of such a list. If it did exist, the authority would immediately detain anyone on it, Senor said.

"We would absolutely take action if we had it. We would make sure they no longer had information to threaten us," Senor said. "We have a very thorough vetting process for everyone who works at the CPA. When we do find an error, we seek to rectify it immediately."

Friday's predawn attack on the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution Party office, which also wounded five others, came a day after Shiites buried a senior party politician assassinated Wednesday as he left his home in Baghdad.

Party officials blamed both attacks on Saddam loyalists.

Rahim Jabar, who lives in the building in western Baghdad, said his sister was killed and five other residents were wounded in the explosion, which brought down half of a one-story residential building that also housed a party branch office.

The blast that wounded the two American soldiers was caused by a homemade bomb, said Capt. Tammy Galloway of the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division.

The tanker truck blew up about 7:50 a.m., near Abu Ghraib, about 20 miles west of Baghdad, sending flames and clouds of smoke rising from the wreckage.

One witness, 19-year-old Jassim Mohammed, said he saw the bodies of two Iraqis in a damaged car.

On Thursday, the military reported rebels had killed a U.S. soldier in the first fatal ambush for the U.S. military since Saddam's capture.

The soldier was killed late Wednesday when a 1st Armored Division patrol came under fire in northwest Baghdad, the military said. A second soldier and an Iraqi interpreter were wounded.

According to official reports, 314 U.S. soldiers have been killed in combat since the war began March 20, including 199 since President Bush declared the end of major combat on May 1. Another 144 soldiers have died in non-hostile incidents, according to the Pentagon.

Some 140 U.S. soldiers from the 3rd Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division also raided a middle-class neighborhood near Baghdad's airport overnight and arrested five of seven suspected guerrillas, the military said Friday.

They included a suspected bomb maker, said the raid commander, Capt. Joel Kostelac of Harrisburg, Pa.

Several attacks on U.S. forces and Iraqi police in recent days have claimed more than a dozen lives in Baghdad and in predominantly Sunni areas west and north of the capital, once Saddam's power base.

U.S. forces also have conducted major operations in Samarra, a focus of resistance 60 miles north of Baghdad, since Saddam was captured.

In New York, a member of Iraq's Governing Council on Friday welcomed U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's call to discuss the United Nations' role in Iraq, saying its legal expertise would help the transition to Iraqi sovereignty.

Annan said Thursday he wants the key players in Iraq, including the U.S.-appointed council and the coalition, to meet Jan. 15 and decide exactly what role they want the United Nations to play as the country moves from U.S. occupation toward self-government.

"It is important that the United Nations will play a central role in the near future," Adnan Pachachi, a member of the Governing Council, told Associated Press Television News.

Pachachi said U.N. legal expertise could help "in a constitutional process, in organizing elections, helping us to conduct a reliable and full population census."

A transitional government assumes sovereignty as scheduled by July 1.

The return of the U.N.'s international staff, pulled out in October following two bombings at U.N. headquarters, could also be on the agenda of a January meeting.

Annan pulled all U.N. international staff out of Iraq in October after two bombings at U.N. headquarters in Baghdad and a series of attacks on humanitarian organizations.

He said he was sure the Governing Council would attend the proposed meeting, but said preliminary consultations have just begun with the coalition.

Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved.