In Iraq, Violence Again Rises During Ramadan

US military spokesmen acknowledge Iraqi insurgents have escalated attacks over the past week or so, since the beginning of Ramadan. The Ramadan offensive has been a hallmark of the insurgency.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

The Bush administration is asking for an additional $190 billion for the war in Iraq. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates made that request on Capitol Hill today. We'll hear about it in a minute. First to Baghdad.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Sunni insurgents have stepped up their attacks there since the Muslim holy month of Ramadan began two weeks ago just as they've done in past years. This year, they are targeting key Sunni tribal leaders who've agreed to cooperate with the U.S. military.

NPR's Jamie Tarabay is in Baghdad.

JAMIE TARABAY: The target of the latest attack - a truck bombing - was Sheikh Kanan al-Juhaimur, who is attending a tribal gathering today in Sinjar in northwestern Iraq. Across Baghdad and in the northern parts of the country where Sunni insurgents still operate, the list of Sunni tribal sheikhs, police officers and other senior officials slain by al-Qaida and its allies is growing longer and longer.

The list began with the assassination of Anbar Sheikh Abdul Sattar Abu Risha, killed on the first day of Ramadan. It was Abu Risha who launched the movement against al-Qaida and Iraq among Iraq Sunnis. At the time of his killing, insurgent groups published Internet statements, claiming to have formed special committees to hunt down and kill people they considered traitors. Since then, a suicide bomber at a tribal gathering in Diyala killed the head of that province's largest tribe. In west Baghdad, the U.S. military says at least 30 people affiliated with the movement opposed to al-Qaida have been killed.

Today, American military spokesman Major General Kevin Bergner acknowledged that insurgent attacks have increased since Ramadan began and could escalate further.

Jamie Tarabay, NPR News, Baghdad.

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Iraqi Leader Seeks Support, Issues Warning

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki asked for international support to stabilize Iraq and bring peace to the region, warning of "disastrous consequences" for the world if the violence continues.

In a speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, al-Maliki said his country has made some progress. He said the number of sectarian killings has been reduced and there is stability to some regions, such as Anbar Province. He said thousands of displaced families have also been able to return to their homes.

"National reconciliation is stronger than the weapons of terrorism," he said. "Today we feel optimistic that countries of the region realize the danger of the terrorist attacks against Iraq, that it is not in their interest for Iraq to be weak."

Al-Maliki also said Iraq has hundreds of political parties active within 20 political alliances; more than 6,000 civil organizations; hundreds of newspapers and magazines and 40 local and satellite TV stations. But, he said, terrorists are targeting the new Iraq.

"Terrorism kills civilians, journalists, actors, thinkers and professionals. It attacks universities, marketplaces and libraries. It blows up mosques and churches and destroys the infrastructure of state institutions," al-Maliki said.

Al-Maliki said he has warned the countries in the region that "the continued overflow of weapons, money, suicide bombers and the spreading of 'fatwas' inciting hatred and murder will only result in disastrous consequences for peoples of the region and the world."

The U.S. has long accused Iran of aiding Shiite Muslim militias in Iraq that it says have killed hundreds of American troops with powerful bombs known as explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs. The U.S. has also accused Iran of training fighters and sending them into Iraq.

Iran disputes those allegations, saying it does not meddle inside Iraq.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told world leaders Tuesday that the U.S. government's policy on Iraq was destabilizing the occupied country.

"They even oppose the constitution, National Assembly and the government established by the vote of the people, while they do not even have the courage to declare their defeat and exit Iraq," he said.

In a meeting with al-Maliki on Tuesday, President Bush pressed the Iraqi leader to make progress on measures deemed critical to the reconciliation process. Much-delayed action on such initiatives as a national oil law has stalled in the Iraqi parliament amid factional bickering and, in some cases, defections.

"Some politicians may be trying to block the law to gain special advantage," Bush said. "And these parties have got to understand that it's in the interests of Iraq to get good law passed."

In his speech to the General Assembly, al-Maliki only briefly noted the proposed oil law, saying his government has completed the work on it and was awaiting its approval by the Iraqi parliament.

From NPR reports and The Associated Press

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