BAGHDAD

Insurgents rally ahead of constitution vote

Insurgents launched a new salvo of attacks five days ahead of a crucial constitutional referendum, killing at least 18 Iraqis and a U.S. soldier yesterday with suicide car bombs, roadside explosives and drive-by shootings, police said.

Five mortar shells were fired at a hotel in the southern city of Hillah where a U.S. regional embassy office is based, with one round hitting the building and leaving a large hole in a wall, police said. No casualties were reported.

Gunmen also opened fire on a convoy of cars carrying members of an Arab League delegation that is visiting Iraq, but no one was hurt, police said.

The attacks came as Shiite and Kurdish officials continued to negotiate with Sunni Arab leaders over last-minute additions to the constitution, trying to win Sunni support ahead of Saturday’s referendum. U.S. officials were acting as mediators.

The sides appeared to remain far apart over basic issues and copies of the draft constitution already are being distributed to the public across the country.

 

BERLIN

Merkel to become German chancellor

Conservative Angela Merkel struck a power-sharing deal yesterday that will make her the first woman and politician from the ex-communist east to serve as Germany’s chancellor, forging a coalition with ousted leader Gerhard Schroeder’s party to reform the faltering economy.

The country’s two biggest political forces were forced into talks on forming a joint government after a Sept. 18 election gave Merkel a victory – but with a margin so slim Schroeder’s party demanded equal treatment in a “grand coalition.”

To resolve the impasse, the Social Democrats gave up Germany’s leadership, but the party secured the bulk of the ministries, including the prestigious Foreign Ministry.

 

WASHINGTON

Reservists shoulder most U.S. deaths

The National Guard and Reserves are suffering a strikingly higher share of U.S. casualties in Iraq, their portion of total American military deaths nearly doubling since last year.

Reservists have accounted for one-quarter of all U.S. deaths since the Iraq war began, but the proportion has grown over time. It was 10 percent for the five weeks it took to topple Baghdad in the spring of 2003, and 20 percent for 2004 as a whole.

The trend accelerated this year. For the first nine months of 2005 reservists accounted for 36 percent of U.S. deaths, and for August and September it was 56 percent, according to Pentagon figures.

The Army National Guard, Army Reserve and Marine Corps Reserve accounted for more than half of all U.S. deaths in August and in September – the first time that has happened in consecutive months. The only other month in which it even approached 50 percent was June 2004.

Casualties in Iraq have shifted toward citizen soldiers as their combat role has grown to historic levels. National Guard officials say their soldiers have been sent into combat in Iraq in numbers not previously seen in modern times.

 

STOCKHOLM

Game theorists win economics Nobel

A pair of game theorists who defined chess-like strategies in politics and business that can be applied to arms races, price wars and actual warfare won the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences yesterday.

Israeli-American Robert Aumann and U.S. citizen Thomas Schelling won the award for research on game theory, a branch of applied mathematics that uses models to study interactions between countries, businesses or people.

The theory, which was devised in 1944 by John von Neumann and Oskar Morgenstern, is often used in a political or military context to explain conflicts between countries but has been of late used to map trends in the business world, ranging from how cartels set prices to how companies can better sell their goods and services in new markets.

 

– Compiled from Daily wire reports

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