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U S Secretary of State Rice arrives in Iraq

Written by: Staff

BAGHDAD, Apr 26 (Reuters) U S Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made an unscheduled visit to Baghdad today just after U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld wentto Baghdad in a show of support for Iraq's new leadership.

Rice arrived on a military plane from Turkey, breaking off from a tour of several European countries.

''The turning point is that Iraq now has its first permanent government of national unity and it gives Iraq a very real chance to deal with the obviously very vexing problems it has faced,'' Rice told reporters on board her plane, which arrived around midday in Baghdad.

Washington has pressed Iraqi leaders in the four months since an election to overcome sectarian and ethnic divisions in order to avert civil war.

Rice said that the joint visit with Rumsfeld was aimed at building on the political movement achieved by the formation of a national government under new Prime Minister-designate Jawad al-Maliki.

She said that a key focus of meetings she was due to havewith U.S. and Iraqi officials would be to ensure sectarianism did not influence the choice of leaders in Iraq's interior and other ministries.

Rice was in Baghdad just three weeks ago, with her British counterpart, on a mission seen as a bid to break Iraq's political deadlock.


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