Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld confirmed on Sunday that US officials had held talks with insurgent groups, which were aimed at ending the war being waged by insurgents.

“The Iraqi government has nothing to do with the negotiations with insurgents,” Mr Talabani told a press conference marking the anniversary of Iraq’s new sovereignty. “If the Americans are negotiating with them, it’s up to them.”

Mr Rusmfeld had said Washington’s role was limited to that of broker for the Iraqi government.

“The Iraqis have a sovereign government,” the Defence Secretary said on Sunday. “They will decide what their relationships with various elements of insurgents will be. We facilitate those from time to time.”

Marking the sovereignty anniversary, Mr Talabani said: “I congratulate the Iraqi people on this independence day. Yet, the (real) independence day is election day” on January 30, when Iraq
held its first free vote in half a century.

Meanwhile, the insurgency claimed another 32 lives in attacks on Tuesday including the oldest member of the country’s national assembly.

Dhari al-Fayadh, 87, died with his son Hassan and three bodyguards in a suicide bombing north of Baghdad, while 31 others were killed and 58 wounded elsewhere.

Chief of the Albuamer, a powerful predominantly Shi’ite tribe, Mr Fayadh had presided over the first sessions of Iraq’s new parliament before a speaker was elected.

His death set off a storm among parliamentarians with some lawmakers calling for tighter security for Shi’ites.

“Those who killed Sheikh al-Fayadh are criminals trying to destroy the country, and those trying to negotiate with these criminals do so with the enemies of Iraq,” Sheikh Humam Hamudi, head of the parliamentary committee drafting the constitution, said.

Khodr al Khozai of the Shi’ite-dominated United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) appealed to the three biggest Sunni organisations to take a stand against attacks on Shi’ites.

“The ministries of interior and defence have proved incapable of defending us and in this case the people have the right to self-defence,” he said.

A deputy from the Mehdi Army of radical Shi’ite cleric Moqtada Sadr suggested neighbourhood committees be created with religious and community leaders to find insurgents.