Condoleezza Rice in Iraq for surprise visit

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Miss Rice will meet with Gulf nations in Kuwait on Tuesday where she will push for more support for Iraq

United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has arrived in Baghdad's Green Zone for a previously unannounced visit to Iraq.

Yesterday Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr threatened an "open war" against the current Iraqi government unless they stopped their operations against his Mahdi Army. In response to this, a US-Iraqi coalition clashed with his forces in Baghdad and to the south. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has also threatened to ban al-Sadr and his supporters from political life if they continue to use militias.

Miss Rice hopes to see more reconciliation of the various factions in Iraq. She praised al-Maliki's work, saying that she has seen a "coalescing of a centre in Iraqi politics".

The primary purpose of Rice's visit is to attend conferences in Gulf states. She called on these states to offer diplomacy and debt relief to Iraq earlier today. "The neighbours could do more to live up to their obligations because I do believe the Iraqis are beginning to live up to theirs," she told reporters on her plane.

On Tuesday she is attending a meeting in Kuwait which will have representation from Iraq's bordering nations in which she is expected to push for further aid for Iraq.