Middle East News
Five US soldiers killed in Iraq, Saddam trial adjourned
Feb 2, 2006, 21:05 GMT
Baghdad - The US military in Iraq said Thursday five US soldiers were killed in separate incidents across the country as police reported the discovery of five persons shot dead south of Baghdad.
Also Thursday, the trial of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein and seven of his aides was adjourned until February 13 and Iraq's newly-appointed oil minister vowed to increase oil production and exports.
The US military said three US soldiers were killed on Wednesday during a patrol when their vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb south of Baghdad.
Two other US soldiers died Wednesday from injuries sustained when they came under small-arms fire in separate incidents, the military said.
One soldier was part of a unit that came under fire in south- western Baghdad. The other, a Marine, was wounded during combat operations near Fallujah.
Earlier, Iraqi police said they found the bodies of five persons who had apparently been shot dead near Yusifiya, 35 kilometres south of Baghdad.
The police said the victims had been blindfolded and that one was an Iraqi soldier.
The trial of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein and seven of his aides was adjourned Thursday until February 13, apparently due to the two-day absence from court of the accused and their defence team.
In Thursday's session, two male witnesses gave testimony of their persecution in Dujail, where Saddam and the co-defendants are accused of massacring 148 Shiite villagers in 1982.
It was the third time since the proceedings restarted Sunday that the deposed Iraqi leader chose not to attend.
Sunday's court session saw an altercation between the new presiding judge, Raouf Rasheed Abdul-Rahman, and several of the defendants which ended with the judge ejecting Saddam's half-brother Barzan al-Tikriti from the court. Saddam and three others later also left the courtroom.
Meanwhile, Iraq's newly-appointed oil minister, Hashem al- Hashimi, said Thursday that his priorities in his new job were to increase oil production and exports, two activities that have been disrupted by ongoing attacks on oil installations.
'We will work on two axes - increasing production and export. By so doing, we can achieve the revenues needed in Iraq,' Hashimi was quoted by the government newspaper Al-Sabah as saying.
Hashimi was appointed by Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari earlier this week to replace Mohammed Bahr al-Olum who resigned in protest over hikes in prices of oil byproducts.
Hashimi, a member of the Fadhila party which is part of the governing Shiite alliance, will occupy the post at least until the formation of the new government.
Iraq's current oil exports about 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd), with total output estimated at 1.8 million bpd.
Improving the security situation in Iraq was paramount to increasing oil output, Hashimi said, noting exports from northern oilfields were being disrupted by sabotage attempts on pipelines.
'Imports are costing the state some 400 million dollars per month. That amount could be harnessed to set up a refinery to reduce fuel imports,' he said.© 2006 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur