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Two U.S. soldiers wounded in Iraqi attack, Britain to send 1,200 more troops

SHARE Two U.S. soldiers wounded in Iraqi attack, Britain to send 1,200 more troops

BAGHDAD, Iraq — Breaking a lull in attacks on U.S. forces, insurgents set off a bomb that wounded two U.S. soldiers in Baghdad, while Britain said it would send 1,200 more troops to bolster coalition forces in Iraq.

Iraqi guerrillas attacked an American patrol in Baghdad with explosives as soldiers were driving out of a tunnel in the center of the city, the military said. The attack wounded two soldiers, damaged two Humvees, one of which turned over and caught fire.

There have been no reports of U.S. combat deaths in the seven days, and on Sunday afternoon, military spokesman, Lt. Col. George Krivo, said the U.S. military had completed a 24-hour period in which no American soldiers had been killed or wounded. Previous near-daily attacks on American troops have become a serious problem for the Bush administration, and it has called for help from other countries to restore security.

Also today, saboteurs hit an oil pipeline 18 miles southeast of Kirkuk. The line that had been carrying 35,000 barrels a day from the Jabour oil field to the main pipeline that originates in Kirkuk was shut down.

Adel al-Qazzaz, the director general of the Northern Oil Co., said the saboteurs hit the line at 10:30 a.m. today, setting it afire at a valve. Huge flames and clouds of smoke rose into the air. Four firefighting teams had the fire under control by nightfall and hoped to have it complete extinguished Tuesday morning.

About yards of the line was damaged. L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. civil administrator for Iraq, has estimated the country is losing $7 million daily because of damage to the major Turkish-bound pipeline that carries oil from the Kirkuk fields to a Mediterranean port for export.

Britain said today that it will send two additional battalions to Iraq, adding 1,200 troops to its forces on the ground. Britain has 11,000 troops in the country.

"We will immediately take steps ... to allow further deployments as rapidly as possible in response to this accelerating program of work," Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon told Parliament.

Some 120 servicemen were sent to Iraq from Cyprus over the weekend. The Ministry of Defense said they were included in the 1,200 troops whose deployment was announced today.

"This response is not a knee-jerk response to recent attacks. It's part of a strategic plan to achieve the goals I have set out," Prime Minister Tony Blair's official spokesman said.

Also today, Bremer said that the United States had committed an unprecedented sum for rebuilding the country.

Bremer's remarks expanded on those of President Bush, who told the American people Sunday night that he would ask Congress for $87 billion for the next fiscal year for the military occupation and reconstruction of Iraq. Of the total request, $21 billion would go for rebuilding.

After a meeting with Iraq's new Public Works Minister Nesreen Berwari, a Kurdish woman, Bremer promised the United States would not leave Iraq before its mission was complete.

"This is one of the largest nonmilitary budgets requested in American history," Bremer said. "It amounts to more than 10 times more than the United States has ever spent in a year in any country.

"And it's a clear, dramatic illustration of the fact that the American people are going to finish the job we started when we liberated Iraq some four months ago," the 61-year-old former counterterrorism expert said.

Before dawn today, more than 100 U.S. troops stormed houses in Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, searching for Saddam loyalists accused of financing or coordinating attacks on American soldiers. Four wanted men were arrested, the military said.

Acting on tips from Iraqis detained in previous raids as well as intelligence sources, the troops stormed houses in downtown Tikrit almost simultaneously, catching the men asleep.

The bloodless raid involved three companies from the 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment of the 4th Infantry Division in Humvees, Bradley fighting vehicles and 5-ton trucks.

"All those targeted were involved in attacks on coalition forces and government officials," said Lt. Col. Steve Russell, 1st Battalion commander. "The message we communicate is if you involve (yourself) in this type of activity, we will hunt you down or we will kill you."

Meanwhile, Iraq's new Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari arrived in Cairo to try to claim his country's seat at a meeting of ministers of the Arab League, which has been reluctant to recognize the legitimacy of Iraq's U.S.-appointed Governing Council.

"This is our right. We are claiming our legitimate right to be here and to be represented," Zebari said at a news conference. "Our message is: We're the representatives of de facto Iraqi authority."

Iraq's seat on the pan-Arab group's council of ministers has remained empty since Saddam Hussein's ouster in April.

Amr Moussa, the league's secretary-general, has hinted that the bloc may finally recognize the Governing Council as a legitimate government and include it in the 22-member organization. But he said the ministers must decide. They meet Tuesday and Wednesday.