Rice in Iraq, praises government’s security efforts

April 21st, 2008 - 12:03 am ICT by admin  

Baghdad, April 20 (DPA) US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, on a surprise visit to Iraq Sunday, praised security efforts of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and his policy to boost national reconciliation. “It is a moment of opportunity in Iraq thanks to the courageous decisions taken by the prime minister and an unified Iraqi leadership,” Rice said in a televised statement with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani after their meeting.

Rice praised Iraqi security forces for fighting “very bravely in this recent operation” in reference to a crackdown launched by al-Maliki against Shia militias in the south and parts of Baghdad.

Radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who accuses the government of targeting his followers from Mahdi Army militia, had threatened Saturday to launch an open war against Iraqi and US troops.

Rice told reporters that Iraq’s Shia, Sunnis and Kurds were working together better than ever before and hoped they would do more towards further reconciliation.

Rice said she was in Baghdad to help further reconciliation efforts among the country’s ethnic and sectarian groups.

Travelling in the region, Rice will tell Arab allies to strengthen their ties with Iraq as a way of countering the growing influence of Iran and reinforcing its Arab identity. She urged Arab countries to reopen their diplomatic missions in Baghdad.

“The neighbours could do more to live up to their obligations because I do believe the Iraqis are beginning to live up to theirs,” Rice said before her arrival in Baghdad.

A conference of Iraq’s neighbouring countries to be hosted by Kuwait Tuesday will be attended by Rice, who urged Arab countries last week to protect Iraq from what she called Tehran’s nefarious influences.

Al-Maliki, who will head his country’s delegation in the Kuwait conference, will join the US in urging Arab countries to reopen their embassies in Baghdad.

Saudi Arabia has been mulling the reopening of the embassy since last year while Egypt, whose ambassador was killed purportedly by the Al Qaeda in Iraq group in 2005, made sending an ambassador to Iraq conditional on improved security in the country.

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