Middle East

Joe Biden urges Iraqi politicians to form coalition

US Vice-President Joe Biden has urged Iraqi politicians to form a coalition and end a political deadlock that has left Iraq without a government.

But he said Iraqis should not allow Washington, or anyone else, to dictate the path of Iraqi politics.

The US wants to withdraw most of its combat troops from the country by the end of next month.

But during Mr Biden's visit to Baghdad, two suicide bombers attacked in two other major Iraqi cities.

'Aspirations'

Mr Biden's visit comes four months after Iraq's inconclusive election, in which no clear winner emerged.

He met the two men competing to become the next Iraqi prime minister, first Iyad Allawi, who has strong backing from the country's Sunni minority; then Nouri Maliki, the caretaker PM who is still in office with an alliance of Shia parties.

"You should not, and I'm sure you will not, let any state - from the United States to any state in the region - dictate what will become of you," he told Iraqi leaders afterwards at a reception in the US embassy.

"So my plea to you is finish what you started through legitimate representative government that meets the needs and aspirations of all Iraqi people."

He did not name the other states who might be seeking to influence Iraqi politics, but neighbours Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey have been jostling for influence.

The US vice president also met US troops marking the 4 July Independence Day holiday.

Meanwhile, a female suicide bomber killed at least three people and wounded many more in the town of Ramadi, west of the capital, when she detonated an explosive vest in the offices of the local governor.

Less than two hours later, police shot a suicide bomber near the provincial government's headquarters in Mosul, 225 miles (360 km) northwest of Baghdad.

The bomber managed to detonate his explosive belt, officials said, wounding two policemen.