BAGHDAD — Iraq's health minister estimated Thursday that 150,000 civilians had been killed since the U.S.-led invasion to oust dictator Saddam Hussein in March 2003.
No official count of the deaths has been available, and estimates have varied widely.
The number is three times as high as a Times estimate in June that was based on Health Ministry and Baghdad morgue statistics.
The Lancet, a British medical journal, last month published a controversial study contending that nearly 655,000 Iraqis have died because of the war.
The study, dismissed by President Bush and other U.S. officials as not credible, was based on interviews of households and not a body count.
Health Minister Ali Shammari, who gave his new estimate of 150,000 to reporters Thursday during a visit to Vienna, also disputed the Lancet figure.
"Some people say ... 600,000 are killed. This is an exaggerated number," he said.
Shammari later said he had based his figure on an estimated average of 100 bodies per day taken to morgues and hospitals -- though such a calculation would come out closer to 133,000. "It is an estimate," he said.
Hassan Salem of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, or SCIRI, said the 150,000 figure included civilians, police and kidnapping victims. SCIRI, Iraq's largest Shiite political group, holds the highest number of seats in the parliament.