Relatives carry the coffin of Rasha Hassan, 22, before her burial in the Shi'a holy city of Najaf, 160km south of Baghdad. A wave of explosions struck two Shi'a neighbourhoods on Thursday, killing and injuring dozens of Iraqis, police said, and intensifying fears that insurgents are stepping up attacks.

Washington - The United States on Thursday condemned a deadly wave of attacks it said were aimed at turning “back the clock” in Iraq and stressed it was working to help end a political crisis in the country.

“With regard to this latest spate of terrorist violence, we condemn these acts. We consider them acts of terror,” State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland told reporters.

“They are desperate attempts by the same kind of folk who have been active in Iraq trying to turn back the clock,” Nuland added, referring to a period of sectarian strife in 2006 and 2007.

A wave of attacks against Shi’a Muslims killed at least 68 people on Thursday, the worst toll in nearly five months, as Iraq grappled with a weeks-long political row that has stoked sectarian tensions.

The violence, which wounded more than 100, comes two weeks after a crisis erupted when the Shi’a-led authorities charged Sunni Vice-President Tareq al-Hashemi with running a hit squad soon after US troops pulled out.

Nuland said US ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey and US Vice-President Joe Biden meanwhile have been “active in encouraging Iraqi politicians to talk to each other, to meet” in order to resolve their political differences.

“We are quite encouraged that a number of Iraqi politicians are also calling for such a meeting, which we hope takes place soon,” Nuland said.

The violence was the second major strike against Iraqis since a political crisis erupted last month. A wave of attacks on December 22 killed 67 people across the country.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has backed off from threats to fire ministers from the Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc who have boycotted the cabinet, the latest move in an apparent toning down of the crisis.

The stand-off was sparked by a decision to issue an arrest warrant for Hashemi on terror charges.

Hashemi, who is holed up in the northern autonomous Kurdish region, denies the charges. - Sapa-AFP