- The Washington Times - Monday, May 16, 2005

BAGHDAD — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with Iraqi leaders yesterday to discuss a new wave of violent attacks as authorities said they had found the bodies of 34 more victims.

During her surprise visit, Miss Rice said she wanted to move ahead the political process and undercut the insurgency. Terrorist attacks have killed more than 400 people since the new Cabinet was named on April 28.

In talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, Miss Rice discussed speeding up the training of Iraqi forces to take on greater security duties. Terrorists have concentrated recent car bombings and assassinations on Iraqi soldiers and police.

“We are fighting a very tough set of terrorists who are, it seems, determined to stop the progress of the Iraqi people,” Miss Rice said at a press conference with Mr. al-Jaafari.

“The insurgency is very violent, but you defeat insurgencies not just militarily,” she said. “You defeat them by having a political alternative that is strong. The Iraqis … are now going to have to intensify their efforts to demonstrate that in fact the political process is the answer for the Iraqi people.”

National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley said Miss Rice’s trip was part of a U.S. effort to reach out to minority Sunni Muslims. Sunnis dominated Iraq under dictator Saddam Hussein and make up the backbone of the insurgency.

“Obviously, she is going to continue that process, because that is really the way forward over the long term to bringing a conclusion to this terrorist effort,” Mr. Hadley said on CNN.

Miss Rice, who traveled in armed helicopters that flew low and fast to avoid any ground artillery, visited on a day when police found the handcuffed bodies of 13 persons who had been fatally shot and left in a Baghdad garbage dump.

The corpses of another 11 Iraqis, four of them beheaded, were found in Iskandariya, south of the capital in an area known as the Triangle of Death. Ten Iraqi soldiers killed by insurgents were discovered on Saturday dumped in Ramadi, about 70 miles west of Baghdad, authorities said.

In east Baghdad, gunmen killed Qasim al-Gharrawi, a cleric who was the local representative of Iraq’s most revered Shi’ite religious leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani, officials said.

Killings of clerics, as well as suicide bombings that target Shi’ite Muslims, have fueled fears that terrorists are trying to stoke civil war between Shi’ites and Sunni Arabs, a group that largely boycotted the Jan. 30 elections.

Four police officers and two civilians were killed when two suicide bombers attacked the convoy of Raad Rashid, governor of Diyala province. He escaped unharmed.

Miss Rice, the most senior U.S. official to visit since Mr. al-Jaafari formed his government, arrived in Irbil in northern Iraq to meet with Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani before moving on to Baghdad.

Asked about the importance of meeting an Aug. 15 deadline for the drafting of a new constitution, Miss Rice said, “Things do not happen overnight. We have become very impatient people. Iraq is emerging from a long national nightmare of tyranny into freedom.”

The new constitution to be drafted by Mr. al-Jaafari’s government and the National Assembly will be the basis for December elections. Mr. al-Jaafari, a Shi’ite Muslim, said he wanted “an inclusive process” that would involve Sunnis Arabs as much as possible.

“We will try to find ways to have a bigger Sunni participation,” he said.

Miss Rice supported his position, telling CNN: “If there is to be a united Iraq in the future, then Sunnis have to be included in the processes going forward and just as they’ve been included in this government.”

In Iraq’s western Anbar province, where U.S. troops conducted a major operation over the past week to hunt insurgents near the Syrian border, the kidnapped provincial governor was set free by his captors, Interior Ministry officials said yesterday.

Raja Nawaf was kidnapped last week with four bodyguards. His captors demanded an end to the U.S. operation, which was concluded over the weekend.

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