BAGHDAD — At least 23 Iraqis and a U.S. soldier were killed in a fresh round of attacks Tuesday as interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi acknowledged that parts of the country were too lawless to take part in the upcoming national election.
Preparations for the landmark vote have deteriorated in several areas, particularly the western province of Al Anbar and the area around Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city, as some election officials have resigned under threat.
"Certainly, there will be some pockets that will not be able to participate," Allawi said, "but we think that it will not be widespread."
President Bush spoke to Allawi by telephone Tuesday, obtaining assurances that the balloting to elect a transitional assembly would be held as scheduled Jan. 30, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said.
McClellan said both leaders were interested in "making sure we have the best possible election with the widest possible participation."
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said no delay was being considered despite the continuing violence.
"We know that there is insecurity in some parts of Iraq and there may be various locations where it's difficult for people to vote," Boucher said. "But I think the goal of the Iraqis, the goal of the Iraqi election commission, is to afford all Iraqis an opportunity to express their choices, afford all Iraqis an opportunity to vote. And they will try to do that as best they can."
Allawi's statement about security echoed previous comments by U.S. military leaders. He also said Tuesday that the Iraqi government would spend $2.2 billion to bolster the country's security forces, expanding the army from 100,000 to 150,000 troops and upgrading weaponry.
U.S. and Iraqi officials expect a barrage of attacks in the next 18 days as insurgents attempt to disrupt the election.
In the last week, gunmen have killed Baghdad's governor and deputy police chief. Twice in the last five days, militants have used roadside bombs to destroy heavily armored Bradley fighting vehicles with U.S. troops inside, demonstrating increased firepower and coordination. Three members of Allawi's Iraqi National Accord party have been killed in the last 48 hours.
Tuesday brought multiple attacks in Iraq's Sunni Muslim heartland, where the insurgency has been the fiercest.
Six Iraqi policemen died when a suicide car bomb detonated at the checkpoint near their station in Tikrit. Four others were wounded, U.S. authorities said. Al Qaeda in Iraq, the group led by Jordanian militant Abu Musab Zarqawi, claimed responsibility for the bombing.
Insurgents also struck twice in Samarra, about 65 miles north of Baghdad, killing five Iraqi troops and a civilian, police said.
In one attack, gunmen closed off an intersection near a mosque, witnesses said. When a U.S. military convoy approached, a car bomb exploded, killing an Iraqi soldier and a passerby. A U.S. soldier was injured, the military said.
Three Iraqi soldiers were killed in an ambush in Mosul on Tuesday, the military said. An Iraqi interpreter working for the United States was slain in an attack outside the city.
In Yusufiya, about 10 miles southwest of Baghdad, at least three Iraqis died when a roadside bomb, apparently meant for a U.S. military convoy, exploded as their minibus passed.
And in western Iraq, a U.S. soldier assigned to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force was killed in action Tuesday. No details were disclosed.
Near Abu Ghraib, a mortar attack killed two women.
In Basra late Monday, two suicide car bombers died in blasts detonated almost simultaneously, one near an Interior Ministry building, the other near a police station. At least two police officers were injured.
Election officials denied reports of mass defections in volatile areas. Adil Lami, a nonvoting member of Iraq's electoral commission, said preparations were continuing in Mosul, despite reports that all the election employees there had resigned.
Times staff writers Ashraf Khalil in Baghdad and Edwin Chen in Washington contributed to this report.