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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

String of Explosions Rocks Baghdad

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- A string of explosions in Baghdad and north of the capital Monday killed at least 14 Iraqis and wounded 52. An American soldier was reported killed in insurgency-plagued western Iraq.

The violence underscored a dangerous leadership vacuum as Sunni Arab and Kurdish politicians increased pressure on Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, a Shiite, to abandon his bid for a new term and leaders of Iraq's Shiite majority struggled to overcome internal divisions.

Despite the political squabbling, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said he would issue a decree Monday calling the new parliament into session for the first time on Sunday, starting the clock on a 60-day period during which it would have to elect a new president and approve a prime minister and Cabinet.

The constitution requires parliament to hold its first meeting no later than four weeks after the vote was certified, which happened Feb. 12, nearly two months after the election was held.

But a leading member of al-Jaafari's Dawa Party, Ali al-Adib, said parliament's main Shiite bloc would request the session be postponed until there was agreement on who should occupy top government positions.

Anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr predicted a "quick solution" to snarled attempts to form a government.

Emerging from a meeting in the Shiite holy city of Najaf with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and secular Shiite parliamentarian Ahmed Chalabi, al-Sadr said: "All obstacles to forming a national unity government soon will be resolved."

Chalabi, the one-time Pentagon favorite as Iraq's post-Saddam Hussein leader, said al-Jaafari deserved the opportunity to form a government.

"Dr. al-Jaafari should be given a chance," Chalabi said. "It is to the benefit of all parties to keep the [Shiite] Alliance strong and unified."

However, Talabani, a Kurd, said al-Jaafari was too divisive a figure.

"We want a prime minister who can gather all the political blocs around him, so that the government would be one of national unity," he told a news briefing in Baghdad.

The struggle to form a broad-based governing coalition acceptable to all the country's main ethnic and religious groups has been hampered by sectarian conflict and insurgent violence.

Many of Monday's attacks targeted the country's Shiite-led security forces, accused by Sunni Arabs of repeated abuses against them under the cover of fighting the deadly Sunni-driven insurgency. The government denies the accusations.

The bloodiest attack happened in Baqouba, where a car bomb targeting an Iraqi police patrol exploded near a market, killing six people and injuring 23, including four patrolmen, police said. Piles of charred, twisted wreckage and pools of blood marked the site.

 Detainees in Iraq are still being tortured, receiving electric shocks and beatings with plastic cables despite U.S. promises to prevent such abuse after the Abu Ghraib scandal, a report by an international rights group said Monday.