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By Elizabeth Piper
Baghdad - Two car bombs exploded near Iraq's interior ministry in Baghdad on Thursday, killing at least five police officers and wounding several in violence that threatened to overshadow efforts to form a new government.
A police source said the car bombs exploded just outside the heavily guarded ministry in central Baghdad, part of a relentless guerrilla campaign to stall the formation of the new government expected to be named in the next few weeks.
Iraqi politicians are engaged in protracted horse trading to fill top posts in the government, creating a new political landscape that has raised concern over sectarian tensions.
A Shi'a alliance won a slim majority in the January 30 polls, gaining power after decades of Sunni domination under Saddam Hussein. The alliance has chosen Islamist Ibrahim al-Jaafari as its candidate for prime minister. But interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi is bidding to keep his job.
The Kurds, who came second in the elections, are in a powerful negotiating position and are seen as kingmakers.
The new government will face the daunting task of tightening security against further attacks by mainly Sunni insurgents angered over losing the privileges they enjoyed under Saddam.
Many Sunni Arabs boycotted the polls or were too afraid to vote, and the 20 percent Sunni Arab minority has little representation in Iraq's new parliament.
Iraqi officials had hoped the elections would help ease violence. But guerrillas have kept up suicide and car bombings in a campaign to topple the US-backed interim government.
On Tuesday, gunmen in Baghdad killed a judge working for the Iraqi special tribunal set up to try Saddam and his top lieutenants.
Judge Barawiz Mahmoud and his son, a lawyer, were killed as they left their home in north Baghdad in what Mahmoud's other son said was a politically motivated attack.
Mahmoud's death was the first assassination of a member of the special tribunal, which includes around 50 trial judges, investigating magistrates, prosecutors and appeals court judges.
The judge's killing came a day after the tribunal referred its first charges against defendants, saying it had enough evidence to put five former Baath party officials on trial, including Saddam's half brother Barzan Ibrahim al-Hassan al-Tikriti and former deputy prime minister Taha Yasin Ramadan.
On Wednesday two car bombs killed 13 Iraqi soldiers and wounded dozens in attacks claimed by al-Qaeda's wing in Iraq, led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, just two days after a suicide bombing killed 125 people - the deadliest single attack since Saddam's overthrow.
Saddam loyalists and foreign Muslim militants, some loyal to Zarqawi, are also behind most of the kidnappings and beheadings plaguing Iraq.
A Swedish-Iraqi politician kidnapped and threatened with beheading said in a video on Wednesday he feared he would soon be killed and appealed to Sweden's king and the Pope for help.