U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says the delay in forming a new Iraqi government is contributing to the ongoing violence in the country.
Speaking at a news conference Thursday, Rumsfeld said Iraqi leaders must settle their differences and begin serving the millions of people who voted them into office. He said a good government would reduce the level of violence.
Rumsfeld also declined to agree with a reporter's suggestion that lower U.S. casualties in recent months could be a trend.
Iraq's political factions may resume talks on Friday on forming a new unity government. They have been trying to create one since elections three months ago.
Also Thursday, multinational troops in Iraq freed three Western peace activists kidnapped in November.
A raid in Baghdad that included British and American forces freed one Briton and two Canadians. No shots were fired during the raid and the kidnappers were not present.
Separately, the U.S. military announced the end of Operation Swarmer north of Baghdad near Samarra. Coalition forces said they detained more than 100 suspected insurgents in the week-long operation.
And a car bomb in central Baghdad killed at least 25 people, most of them policemen. At least nine other Iraqis died Thursday in gun violence and bombings in the capital.