Karbala: A suicide bomber targeting Iranian pilgrims killed at least 10 people in the Iraqi shrine city of Karbala on Monday as eight months of wrangling over a new government came to a head.
The bomber drew his booby-trapped vehicle up next to a bus carrying the pilgrims from neighbouring Iran then detonated his payload, police officials said.
The explosion wounded another 38 people, most of them Iranians, hospital officials said.
"It was a suicide bomber who drove up against a bus carrying Iranian pilgrims and detonated the explosives," a police official said.
The bomber struck in the northern part of Karbala through which traffic headed to the tightly guarded shrines from the capital Baghdad passes.
Some 1,500 Shi`ite pilgrims a day from neighbouring Iran visit the faith`s shrines in Iraq, in Karbala and Najaf further south as well as in the capital.
The attack came as political rivals who have been bickering over a power-sharing agreement that has left Iraq without a government for eight months were to meet in the northern Kurdish city of Arbil.
Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said last week that a surge of violence in Iraq, including a hostage crisis by al Qaeda gunmen at a Baghdad church which left 46 worshippers dead, was due to the failure to form a government.
"The attacks and explosions ... are due to the constitutional and political vacuum and the delay in the formation of the government, which gave the terrorists the opportunity to attack civilians," he said.
Monday`s meeting in Arbil follows declarations in Baghdad on Sunday that the main Shi`ite- and Sunni Arab-backed blocs in Parliament had reached a deal whereby Nuri al-Maliki, a Shi`ite, would retain the premiership, a spokesman said.
"An agreement was reached yesterday among the political parties in which Jalal Talabani (a Kurd) will continue as head of state, Nuri al-Maliki will stay on as Prime Minister and (mainly Sunni-backed) Iraqiya will choose its candidate for parliament speaker," government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said on Sunday.