Iraq: Over 50 dead in day of sectarian violence

Car bombs and gunfire killed about 60 people as another daytime curfew Saturday failed to halt the violence that has claimed nearly 200 lives since the destruction of a Shiite shrine triggered a wave of retribution against Sunnis and pushed Iraq toward civil war. President George W. Bush telephoned leaders of the Shiite, Sunni Arab and Kurdish parties in a bid to defuse the sectarian crisis unleashed by the bombing of the Shiite Askariya shrine in Samarra. Reprisal attacks that followed the Wednesday blast derailed talks on a new Iraqi government and threaten US plans to start withdrawing troops this year. A second straight day of curfew in Baghdad and three surrounding provinces prevented major attacks Saturday and the city was relatively calm. That raised hopes that the worst of the crisis was past. Authorities lifted the curfew in the areas outside Baghdad but announced an all-day vehicle ban Sunday in the capital and its suburbs. "I think the danger of civil war as a result of this attack has diminished, although I do not believe we are completely out of danger yet," US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad told reporters Saturday night.