February 21, 2006 U.S. Warns Iraq It Won't Support Sectarian Goals By SABRINA TAVERNISE and ROBERT F. WORTH BAGHDAD, Iraq, Feb. 20 â The American ambassador to Iraq issued an unusually strong warning on Monday about the need for Iraq's political factions to come together, hinting for the first time that the United States would not be willing to support crucial public institutions plagued by sectarian agendas. "The United States is investing billions of dollars" in Iraq's police and army, said the ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad. "We are not going to invest the resources of the American people to build forces run by people who are sectarian." Mr. Khalilzad spoke at a news conference on a day of fresh violence across Iraq. It was the bloodiest day in almost two months. He was addressing allegations that Shiite death squads operate within the Interior Ministry. Such reports have grown in recent months, with accounts of hundreds of Sunni men being rounded up by men in police uniforms and found dead days or weeks later. The deaths have infuriated the Sunni Arabs, whose radical fringe leads the insurgency here, and have sharpened their distrust of the Shiite-led government that swept into power last spring. Bombing attacks on Monday, including one inside a crowded commuter bus in Baghdad and another in a restaurant in northern Iraq, left at least 26 dead and more than 60 wounded. One American soldier was also killed. Iraqi political leaders are deep in negotiations over forming a government, more than two months after parliamentary elections. American officials have long argued that new cabinet ministers should place the interests of their country over those of their sects. But by linking American financing to a fair, nonpartisan army and police force, even if not intended as a direct threat, Mr. Khalilzad pressed the American position more forcefully and publicly than before. American officials are working to draw Sunni Arabs into the new government in an effort to build a stable society and begin bringing American troops home. Allaying Sunni concerns over overtly biased ministries is seen as an essential part of that effort. The attacks on Monday, however, raised fresh fears of renewed violence. The worst of the violence began in Mosul, in northern Iraq. Shortly after 7 a.m., a suicide bomber walked into the Abu Ali Restaurant and detonated his payload, spraying shrapnel into diners, killing at least six of them and wounding six more, the police and local officials said. The attack was a clear strike against the police force: the restaurant is near a police station and is popular among officers, many of whom were eating breakfast. "I could not hear anything, and there was heavy smoke," said Said Tharwat, a 30-year-old wounded in the attack. Several hours later in Baghdad, a man wearing a suicide vest boarded a bus in Kadimiya, a bustling Shiite neighborhood, and blew himself up, killing at least 12 Iraqis and wounding 15, most of them Shiite commuters, a Ministry of Interior official said. One witness said the fiery blast, which ignited the bus, had scattered body parts and severely burned the wounded. A nearby traffic policeman was also killed. The wounded, with burns on their hands and faces, were evacuated to Kadimiya Hospital, where an official reported a higher death toll: 17. The violence came amid signs of serious disagreement over the shape of the government. The new Parliament is required by law to meet for the first time on Saturday, and Mr. Khalilzad's remarks seemed calculated to put pressure on Iraqis to overcome their differences. He has sharply criticized Interior Ministry abuses in the past, echoing Sunni concerns about the ministry's failure to stop the killings. He amplified those concerns on Monday, urging the leaders to appoint interior and defense ministers who are "nonsectarian, broadly accepted and not tied to militias." If Iraq cannot control the sectarian agendas within its government, Mr. Khalilzad said, it "faces the risk of warlordism that Afghanistan went through for a period." Mr. Khalilzad was born in Afghanistan and served as an American envoy there before coming to Iraq last year. Tensions between Sunni Arabs and Shiite political groups are not the only obstacle to the kind of unity government that Mr. Khalilzad is advocating, and it is unlikely that a government will be formed soon, some Iraqi leaders said. The British foreign secretary, Jack Straw, also arrived Monday to discuss formation of the new government, Reuters reported. In more behind-the-scenes political negotiating, Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari visited the leader of the Shiite majority, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, in Najaf. Mr. Jaafari, who was recently selected by the largest Shiite political bloc to remain prime minister in the next government, said Ayatollah Sistani had urged him to speed up the formation of the government "on the basis of high competence, integrity and transparency." Across Iraq on Monday, insurgents engineered at least eight attacks. In central Baghdad, a homemade bomb went off near a group of Shiite day-laborers around 8 a.m., wounding 20 of them, an Interior Ministry official said. North of Baghdad, in Nibai district, five truck drivers were killed and four wounded when their convoy supplying building materials to American forces came under attack, a provincial spokesman said. In Buhruz, another town north of Baghdad, an official from a hospital in Baquba was shot dead. In the Diyala Bridge area south of Baghdad, a car bomb exploded near an Iraqi official's convoy, killing 2 of his guards and wounding 11 civilians, the ministry official said. American forces faced fresh opposition in Karbala, a Shiite city in the south, when the governor of the province, Akeel al-Khazali, barred American troops from entering government buildings, according to the governor's press office. Mr. Khazali took issue with the Americans' bringing dogs into the building, but it was not clear if there was another, more serious disagreement behind the order. An American soldier was killed when his vehicle struck a home-made bomb just southeast of Karbala, the military said in a statement. Also on Monday, an Iraqi government official said the number of confirmed human deaths from the avian flu virus have been just two, fewer than previously thought. Omar al-Neami contributed reporting from Baghdad for this article, and Iraqi employees of The New York Times from Mosul, Najaf and Karbala.