Military officials in Iraq say twin car-bomb explosions in Hilla, a town south of Baghdad, have caused heavy casualties.
Iraqi police and hospitals say the blasts killed at least 23 people late Saturday. Nearly 60 others are being treated for their wounds. U.S. military officials had said earlier that the bombs killed 40 people, but they revised their assessment today/Sunday to conform with the Iraqi reports.
The explosions (about 60km south of Baghdad) come just before the U.S.-led coalition transfers power to an interim government led by Prime Minister Ilyad Allawi. He says continuing violence could force a delay in national elections beyond next January.
The new Iraqi government chief also says (in an article published in London's Independent newspaper that) he intends to offer amnesty to opponents of the U.S.-led coalition -- but only if they have not commited any criminal acts.
U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says (in a British television interview today) that Washington has a contingency plan for sending more troops to Iraq, but there are no plans to do so at present.
Information for this report is provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.