- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 5, 2006

1:18 p.m.

BAGHDAD — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, making an unscheduled visit here today, said the Iraqi leaders have limited time to settle political differences spurring sectarian and insurgent violence.

“They don’t have time for endless debate of these issues,” Miss Rice said during a press conference aboard her plane. “They have really got to move forward. That is one of the messages that I’ll take, but it will also be a message of support and what can we do to help.”

Miss Rice said Iraqis must resolve for themselves complex problems such as the division of oil wealth, possible changes to the national constitution and the desire for greater autonomy in various regions of the country.

“Our role is to support all the parties and, indeed, to press all the parties to work toward that resolution quickly because obviously the security situation is not one that can be tolerated and it is not one that is being helped by political inaction,” she said.

Car bombs, as well as other explosions and shootings, killed 34 persons across the country yesterday. At least 21 U.S. soldiers have been killed since Saturday, a disproportionately high number. Most of the casualties have been in Baghdad amid a massive security sweep by American and Iraqi forces that has been going on since August.

A military transport plane that flew Miss Rice and her party into Baghdad today had had its landing delayed by 35 minutes by “indirect fire” — either from mortar rounds or rockets — in the airport area, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters.

Miss Rice met with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and other officials as the sectarian spiral of revenge killings between Shi’ites and Sunnis threatened to undermine his government. The tit-for-tat killings have become the deadliest violence in Iraq, with thousands slain in recent months, and Shi’ite and Sunni parties in his coalition accuse each other of backing militias.

“Obviously the security side and the political side are linked,” she told reporters.

Miss Rice described the task as “the ability to get everybody to understand precisely how their interests are going to be represented and how their interests are going to be served in this political process.”

“This visit will be an opportunity for consultation and dialogue on a number of issues that are important to both countries,” Mr. al-Maliki said through an interpreter.

“This is, of course, a time of challenge for the Iraqi people,” Miss Rice said. “They are a committed people, and we know they will overcome these challenges.”

In addition to meeting Mr. al-Maliki and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, Miss Rice also is slated to meet with Sunni leaders.

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