Baghdad: dozens killed in attacks as PM-designate says he close to forming Cabinet

Escalating violence around Baghdad and other parts of the country left at least 36 people dead as Iraq's prime minister-designate announced he was close to forming a new government before a May 22 deadline - even as other groups claimed there was still a long way to go.

It was increasingly apparent that any final agreement hinged on a successful deal being struck over the interior and defense ministries by the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance which has 130 seats in the 275-member parliament, and the Sunni Arab Accordance Front which controls 55 along with another group. Sunni Arabs have insisted on the defense portfolio.

In the northern commercial district of Shaab, police Cpt. Ali al-Obeidi said the gunmen first shot five guards at the open-air lot that served as a parking area and small market.

As bystanders rushed to the area, a car bomb detonated next to an oil tanker, which exploded and engulfed the area in a fireball. AP Television News footage showed the remnants of an exploded car and sandals and clothes of the many dead and injured.

The attack seemed to be organized and aimed at killing as many people as possible.

The motivation for the attack was unclear, but it may have been sectarian. The Shaab neighborhood is mainly Shiite.

Another attack that was openly motivated by religion was the bombing of a liquor store in Baghdad. It was the third attack on the shop, one of a few remaining stores in the Iraqi capital that sell alcoholic drinks. Islamic militants have demanded that such shops close, although liquor is not banned in Iraq.