A day of mourning in Basra

The southern Iraqi city of Basra buried its dead today after four co-ordinated suicide bombings killed at least 68 people in the region yesterday. Schools were closed for the funerals of 17 children killed when their school buses were caught up in the blasts which mostly targeted police stations.

Some coffins were carried through the city's streets as demonstrators gathered to show their outrage at the atrocities, carrying banners that blamed the British and the US for the lack of security in the country.

Captain Hisham al-Halawi, a British forces spokesman in Basra, told CNN that British forces in Basra were not interfering in the marches, but maintaining a presence.

One soldier said: "You can understand their fury, but it's the bombers they should blame, not us. They are making war on innocent civilians."

The British Army was urgently reviewing its softly-softly approach to peacekeeping in southern Iraq after the deadliest attacks on Basra since the end of the war.

Until yesterday Basra escaped the worst of the violence afflicting the rest of Iraq. Five British soldiers were among the 100 injured, one of them was seriously hurt, report timesonline.co.uk

UN secretary general Kofi Annan said the ongoing violence would limit the role of the international organization in Iraq's political transition and reconstruction.

Bush has sought a greater UN involvement in the preparations for the turnover of political control to Iraqis from the coalition on June 30.

"It is an indication that the violence has spread," Annan said. "Of course the security situation on the ground has a very important impact on our decisions and our activities."

The attacks in Iraq have been aimed at police stations or Iraqi Civil Defence Corps offices in parts of cities with large Shia or Kurdish majorities. They dovetail with the text of a letter written by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian with ties to al-Qaeda, that was intercepted two months ago by U.S. authorities.

In that letter, Zarqawi expressed disappointment that more Iraqis had not rallied to al-Qaeda's cause. He suggested attacking Kurds and Shias to try to make them go to war against Sunnis, triggering a civil war that would hobble U.S. efforts to turn Iraq into a multi-ethnic democracy, inform canada.com

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