Baghdad, Iraq — Iraq's president issued a highly optimistic report Friday on progress among politicians trying to hammer out the shape of a new unity government. At least 51 more people, including two U.S. soldiers, were reported dead in rampant violence.
President Jalal Talabani said the government could be in place for parliamentary approval by the end of the month, though he acknowledged, "I am usually a very optimistic person." He spoke to reporters after a fifth round of multiparty talks among the country's polarized political factions.
U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad brokered the sessions, with the Bush administration applying extreme pressure on Iraqi politicians to form a government. Washington hopes to begin withdrawing troops this summer, banking on a decrease in violence once a national unity government is in place.
A less optimistic Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, whose nomination by the Shiite bloc for a second term produced the political stalemate, has said a Cabinet list could be ready by the end of April, a full month beyond the Talabani estimate.
The rising death toll among Iraqis on Friday included five worshippers killed in a bombing outside a Sunni mosque after prayers. At least 15 were wounded in the blast in Khalis, northeast of Baghdad, the Iraqi military reported.
Baghdad police said they discovered 25 more bodies, blindfolded, shot and dumped throughout the capital. Retaliatory killings among Shiites and Sunnis have become increasingly common in the capital since the Feb. 22 bombing of an important Shiite shrine that unleashed the rash of sectarian violence.
The two U.S. soldiers were killed in combat in insurgent-ridden Anbar province, the American military reported Friday. The statement said the soldiers, assigned to the 2/28th Brigade Combat Team, were killed Thursday.