BAGHDAD – A parked car bomb exploded at rush hour today in a busy bus station in southwest Baghdad, killing at least 20 people.
The blast went off at 8:15 a.m. in Baghdad’s Baiyaa neighborhood, a police officer said on condition of anonymity because of security concerns. At least 40 minibuses were incinerated in the explosion, he said.
On Wednesday, at least 60 Iraqis were killed or found dead across the country, most of them in the Baghdad area, according to police reports. A late night car bombing near a Shiite shrine in the capital left 14 people dead.
The U.S. command said one American soldier was killed and four were wounded in a roadside bombing in east Baghdad.
U.S. officials have been pressing the Iraqis to enact a series of laws designed to bring together the country’s warring factions, curb the violence and arrest the slide in support for the U.S. mission among the American people and Congress.
During a news conference Wednesday, the second-ranking U.S. diplomat in Iraq said he was hopeful that the Iraqis would make progress on “some” legislation by September.
That’s when Gen. David Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker are to submit a report on prospects for ending the violence.
The report is expected to mark a watershed in the troubled American effort to build a stable democracy in Iraq in the wake of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.
“We’re in a very significant period of political turmoil. … But we do expect Iraqis to work through these issues,” U.S. diplomat Daniel Speckhard told reporters. “My expectations are still that they’ll rise to the challenge of producing some key legislation by September.”
Speckhard said much work has been done in Iraq’s parliament on a U.S.-backed law that would regulate the oil industry and distribute revenues among all the country’s ethnic and sectarian groups.
Other “benchmark” bills would amend the constitution, allow many former members of Saddam’s Baath party to get back government jobs and arrange new elections for provincial posts.
All those measures have stalled because of political divisions within the Cabinet and parliament.