21 killed by Iraqi rebels

In the most recent attacks, rebels have killed three Iraqi soldiers in a bomb blast near the northern town of Samarra.

Two engineers working in a US base were killed by gunmen in Doloyah, north of Baghdad.

Four Iraqis died in a suicide bombing in Dahuk, in northern Iraq, as well as three policemen in the northern city of Kirkuk, killed during an attack on their patrol.

An aide to Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Chalabi, Haidar Mohammed Ali al Dujaili, was shot dead in his bed in southeast Baghdad.

Mr Jaafari has outlined a 12-point plan to fight insurgents, including strengthening intelligence coordination and increasing efforts to secure the country’s borders to prevent infiltration from abroad.

“For us, security forces are not academic things, and it is not entertainment, but it is a shield to protect our blood, traditions and thoughts,” said Mr Jaafari.

His comments come ahead of a conference of Iraqi leaders on Friday aimed at hammering out an agreement on the country’s post-Saddam Hussein constitution.

The issues to be resolved are: federalism, official languages, the relation between religion and state, the name of the republic, the rights of women and the question of Kirkuk, the oil-rich northern province which Kurds want included in their own autonomous region.

The draft has to be submitted to parliament by August 15 ahead of an October referendum on the charter.

The conference is due to report by August 12 and any matters still unresolved will be put to the full parliament for decision by majority vote.

A national referendum on the constitution is planned for October 15, to be followed by general elections in mid-December and the setting up of a new government at the start of next year.

Meanwhile, the United States has urged Syria and Iran to honour their pledge to support stability in Iraq.

The resolution “condemns without reservation and in the strongest terms the terrorist attacks that have taken place in Iraq, and regards any act of terrorism as a threat to peace and security.”

The statement followed the killings of 14 US marines in a roadside bombing in the western town of Haditha.

At least 39 US troops have died in Iraq in just the last 10 days.

The attack, one of the worst since the US-led invasion of March
2003, was claimed by the al-Qaeda linked group Ansar al-Sunna, in a statement posted on the internet.

It said had killed “close to 25 marines” in its statement, which could not be verified.

The attack brings the total number of US soldiers killed in Iraq since the invasion to 1,813, according to a toll based on Pentagon figures.