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Iraqi Parliament Holds Inaugural Session Thursday


Iraq's new parliament will hold its first session on Thursday, although its leaders have been unable to resolve the deadlock about forming a national unity government.

The U.S. military has deployed 700 extra troops to help provide security for the first parliamentary meeting, and to protect Shi'ite pilgrims observing the major holiday of Arba'een this Monday in Karbala.

On Wednesday, a combative Saddam Hussein testified for the first time at his murder trial, calling on Iraqis to stop killing each other and to fight U.S. forces instead.

Saddam also called the tribunal a "comedy" and insisted he is still president. His comments triggered a heated exchange with the chief judge, who told him to stop making political speeches.

The judge later adjourned the trial until April fifth.

Saddam and seven co-defendants are on trial for the killing of 148 Shi'ites in the Iraqi village of Dujail in 1982. They face death by hanging if found guilty.

Separately, a new poll by a U.S.-based international policy research group (World Public Opinion.org) found two-thirds of Americans believe the conflict in Iraq was a war of choice, not a war of necessity.

In other news, Iraqi police say 11 people were killed in a raid on a house near Balad, north of Baghdad. The U.S. military confirmed the attack but said only four people were killed in the operation, including an al-Qaida suspect.

A U.S. statement said an American soldier was killed by mortar fire southwest of Baghdad Wednesday.

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