TWO near-simultaneous car bombs in the southern Iraqi city of Kut killed 30 people and wounded 80 this morning.

The blasts struck the commercial center of Kut, 160 kilometers south of Baghdad and capital of Wasit province, at around 6pm local time a police sergeant said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Today’s attack comes a day after President Barack Obama pledged that the United States will end its combat mission in Iraq as scheduled on August 31, despite a recent flare-up in violence.

Figures released by Iraqi officials on Saturday showed that more people died as a result of violence in July than in any previous month since May 2008. The US military has disputed those figures, however.

US and Iraqi officials have warned of the dangers of an upsurge in violence if negotiations on forming a new government drag on, giving insurgent groups an opportunity to further destabilise the country.

Nearly five months since the March 7 general election which gave no single bloc an overall parliamentary majority, there is no consensus on who should serve as prime minister.