June 1st, 2008 13:56 EST
Military deaths in Iraq at all-time low
U.S. military deaths in Iraq plunged in May to the lowest monthly total since the war began, while Iraqi military and civilian casualties also fell sharply.
The U.S. military said Sunday that 19 U.S. servicemen were killed in Iraq last month, the lowest number since the U.S.-led invasion of 2003.
The toll for May is one fewer than the previous monthly low for U.S. military deaths - 20 - set in February of 2004. Nearly 4,100 U.S. military deaths have occurred since the war began.
The Iraqi Health and Defense Ministries say their figures for May show about 550 Iraqi civilians and security forces were killed last month, down from more than one-thousand in April.
Meanwhile French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner has arrived in the northern Iraq city of Irbil where he is expected to open a new French diplomatic office.
Kouchner arrived in Iraq Saturday for two days of talks with Iraqi officials.
French officials say the visit is part of France`s effort to reengage Iraq and offer help in the rebuilding process.
Also Sunday, Australia ended combat operations in Iraq, pulling its 500 soldiers from their bases in the south of the country. The removal of the battle group fulfills an election promise by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to bring the soldiers home this year.
A close U.S. ally, Australia was one of the first countries to commit troops to the Iraq war. U.S. forces are to replace the Australian troops.
In other developments today Iraqi police say a car bomb exploded in central Baghdad near the Iranian Embassy killing at least two people and wounding five. The wounded included three embassy guards.
The embassy is located just outside the Green Zone.