BAGHDAD, Iraq, AP -A suicide car bomber targeted a bus of police recruits north of Baghdad Monday, killing seven people, while gunmen in the capital killed five laborers, police said. Iraq’s Kurdish president met with the Shiite prime minister in northern Iraq for talks over the formation of the country’s next government.
At least three police recruits were killed by the car bomb, and another four people also died, although officials couldn’t immediately identify whether they were police recruits or civilians. Thirteen people were wounded, the Diyala police said. The bus had been traveling to a training center in northern Baqouba, 60 kilometers (35 miles) northeast of Baghdad.
In the capital, gunmen in two cars opened fire on laborers, killing five, police Capt. Qasim Hussein said.
A 7-ton truck slammed into a bus that civilian contractors were riding in on a U.S. air base in the western Anbar region Sunday, the U.S. military said on Monday. Four American civilian contractors were killed, and 18 civilians were injured, including eight who were flown by medical helicopter to Baghdad.
The cause of the accident was under investigation. No hostile action was involved, the military said.
Officials at Iraq’s largest oil refinery re-opened the flow of fuel about two weeks after shutting down because of a deteriorating security situation and threats against drivers of fuel trucks. The shutdown forced stations around the country to ration gas, creating long lines at stations.
“We started (Sunday) to supply the tankers with oil products after the government promised to secure them along the highways,” Ahmed Ibrahim Hamadi, the director of distribution at the Beiji refinery in northern Iraq, said.
Iraq also resumed oil exports from its southern oil field after more than a week of bad weather and a lack of tugboats to handle tankers, an official who couldn’t be identified for security reasons told Dow Jones newswires.
A car bomb exploded in Baghdad near an American convoy, Hussein said. Police had no information on casualties, and U.S. officials do not usually comment on such attacks.
Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari and the ministers of defense and education were welcomed by President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, in Sulaimaniyah, 260 kilometers (160 miles) northeast of Baghdad, on Monday.
Al-Jaafari is a leading member of the United Iraqi Alliance, a religious coalition of majority Shiites that won the most votes in the Dec. 15 parliamentary elections, according to preliminary results.
Sunni Arabs made their opening bid Sunday in what could be protracted negotiations to form a new government. Leaders of the minority’s main political group, the Iraqi Accordance Front, traveled to the northern city of Irbil for a Monday meeting with the president of the Kurdish region, Mazoud Barzani, with whom al-Jaafari met on Sunday.
“We agreed on essential principles for exerting efforts to form a broad-based government, a strong national unity government. Meetings will be continued later here and in Baghdad and we will continue to cooperate until we achieve what is beneficial for Iraq,” Barzani said of his meeting with al-Jaafari.
The Kurdish region in Iraq’s north already has seen a flurry of postelection bargaining between Kurds and the United Iraqi Alliance.
Preliminary results from the Dec. 15 election have given the Shiite group a strong lead in the voting for Iraq’s 275-member parliament, but not enough for it to govern without other political blocs.
A year ago, it took nearly three months of negotiations between the Shiite religious alliance and a coalition of Kurdish parties to form an interim government after a Jan. 30 election that was boycotted by the Sunni Arabs at the core of the insurgency.
The first quarter of 2006 looks more crucial as Iraq tries to shape an administration that will govern for four years. U.S. officials are pushing the parties to form a broad-based coalition government, and failed negotiations could worsen the civil strife.
Final election results are expected as early as this week, and the Shiite religious bloc may win about 130 seats — short of the 184 seats needed to avoid a coalition with other parties to elect a president. That vote is a prerequisite before a government can be formed.
The Kurds could get about 55 seats, the main Sunni Arab groups about 50 and the secular Shiite bloc headed by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi about 25.
A representative of Allawi’s group said it had not been invited to the Irbil talks.
The Irbil meetings came ahead of Monday’s visit to Iraq by a team of international monitors who will assess the elections, which have been endorsed as credible by the United Nations but denounced as rigged by opposition groups. About 1,500 complaints have been registered.
Tarek al-Hashimi, head of the Iraqi Islamic Party, told the Al-Jazeera satellite television channel that the minority Sunni Arab party Iraqi Accordance Front would not boycott the next parliament — a threat that has been made by smaller groups — and would promote Sunni Arab demands for broad amendments to the constitution approved in an Oct. 15 referendum.
Al-Hashimi is among the delegation to meet with Barzani on Monday.
In other violence Monday:
• Police found the bodies of eight civilian men handcuffed, shot and dumped at a sewage plant in southeast Baghdad. The body of a policeman shot in the head was found in western Baghdad.
• Police found three bodies in Iskandariyah, 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of Baghdad, police Capt. Mothana Khalid said.
Thirteen Iraqis were killed in violence on Sunday, and thirteen car bombs exploded around the country.