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U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice flies to Iraq

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U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice flies to Iraq

Post by shammy on Tue Dec 18, 2007 4:29 pm

18th December,2007

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged Iraqi leaders on Tuesday to speed up national reconciliation on a trip overshadowed by an incursion by several hundred Turkish troops into northern Iraq.

About 300 Turkish soldiers, carrying only light weapons, entered an area of the mountainous northern Kurdish province of Dahuk, about 200 km (120 miles) from the Iraqi city of Kirkuk, where Rice's plane first touched down.

The soldiers clashed with Kurdish separatist guerrillas, a Turkish military official said. Turkey says it has the right to use military force to combat Kurdish rebels who shelter in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq.

The incursion was a sharp reminder that while violence in Iraq has dropped by 60 percent since June, security is fragile and Iraq still faces threats both from within and without. The Kurdish Regional Government condemned the incursion.

Making her eighth visit as secretary of state, Rice planned to highlight progress on reducing violence and shoring up the economy, officials travelling with her said.

"What is missing here, and what is absolutely necessary over the long term to secure all of this, is political progress," State Department Iraq coordinator David Satterfield told reporters. "They (have) got to move."

Security in Iraq has improved due to the deployment of an extra 30,000 U.S. troops, an uprising by Sunni Arab tribes against al Qaeda, and a six-month ceasefire declared by Shi'ite cleric and militia leader Moqtada al-Sadr.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's Shi'ite-led government, however, remains paralysed by infighting and has made little headway in passing laws seen as vital to reconciling the country's sects and ethnic groups.


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