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U.S. denounces deadly attacks in Iraq

(Xinhua)

09:11, February 24, 2012

WASHINGTON, Feb. 23 (Xinhua) -- The United States on Thursday denounced the recent spate of deadly attacks across Iraq, calling them "desperate attempts" by terrorist groups to sow fear and undermine Iraqi democracy.

"Obviously these were horrible, even heinous, acts that took place today. You know, we strongly condemn these acts of violence and obviously offer our deepest condolences to the families and friends of the victims," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.

"Frankly, we view these as desperate attempts by terrorist groups to sow fear and undermine Iraqi democracy at what everyone recognizes is really a critical juncture in the Iraqi political process," he told reporters at a regular news briefing.

The early morning attacks in Iraqi provinces of Salahudin, Diyala and Kirkuk and the capital city of Baghdad claimed at least 60 lives and wounded dozens of others, breaking a lull in the month and making Thursday one of the deadliest days since the withdrawal of U.S. troops in mid-December.

Noting that the Iraqi security forces have stood up to these kinds of attacks before, Toner said "We're confident that they can do so again."

Though deadly attacks were not new to Iraqi cities since American troops pulled out, the fresh round of violence came as Iraq is bracing itself for an Arab League summit slated for March 29.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and rival Sunni leaders have sought to smooth over a political crisis that has threatened their power-sharing agreement.

The row erupted in December as Maliki sought to arrest Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi on terror charges, and asked the parliament to sack his Sunni deputy Salih al-Mutlak after the latter called him "a dictator."

The events were seen as part of a growing struggle between Maliki's leading Shi'ite bloc and his political rivals for more power after U.S. troops left.

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