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U.S. civilian deaths in Iraq top 842

  |   Nov. 1, 2006 at 10:25 AM
WASHINGTON, Nov. 1 (UPI) -- More than 646 contractors have been killed in Iraq since 2003, according to the U.S. Labor Department.

Sixty-eight death claims were filed with the Labor Department in the last three months, a new report by the department said.

Another 196 U.S. government civilians have been killed since 2003, eight of them in the last three months, according to a quarterly report to Congress filed by the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction.

The report is required by Congress and tracks not just violence, but the progress -- or lack thereof -- of Iraq reconstruction.

The lack of basic services -- electricity, fuel and water -- has been tagged as a prime motivator for fighting in Iraq. The U.S. and Iraqi governments' ability or inability to provide those services is believed to affect the insurgency, and popular support for it.

The three indicators show a mixed bag.

Power is available over 12 hours a day across most of the country, but in Baghdad, home to more than 6 million people, about a quarter of the Iraq population, it is only available for four hours a day. Baghdad, the "center of gravity" in the sectarian and insurgent fight in Iraq, had at least 16 hours a day prior to the invasion. Countrywide, about 46 percent of Iraqi power needs go unmet by the fragile electrical infrastructure, which is often targeted by sabotage. Some of the unmet need is the result of growing demand from the import of consumer electronics.

Iraq's oil industry continues to lag. Prior to the invasion it produced about 2.5 million barrels a day. It is up to about 2.2 bpd now, and earned $24.8 billion so far this year, largely because of skyrocketing oil prices. But Iraq's lack of refinery capacity and ability to export oil means it lost out on a potential $16 billion in earnings, according to the report. It also had to import large quantities of fuel for consumer use.

Out of a population of 25 million, just 4.6 million Iraqis have potable water, and 5.1 million have sanitary sewage.

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