Alexa

Rice tells Iraqi leaders they have limited time to settle differences, control violence

Rice tells Iraqi leaders they have limited time to settle differences, control violence

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice warned Iraqi leaders on Thurdsay that they have limited time to settle their political differences and said the country's escalating waves of violence are intolerable.
In a visit to the Iraqi capital, Rice also insisted that the Bush administraton has been honest with Americans about the costs and stakes in Iraq. Her remarks, the latest in which administration officials have recently found themselves defending their conduct of the war, reflected the political toll for the White House from an unpopular conflict.
"This is really hard going," Rice told reporters during a visit that came just five weeks from the Nov. U.S. congressional elections in which Republicans risk losing control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
"Not only do I believe that the president has been clear with the American people that this is a struggle, he's been clear with the American people why he thinks it's a struggle that needs to be waged," Rice said.
Rice, who had been visiting Arab and Israeli leaders, came to Iraq to tell sometimes squabbling leaders they have limited time to settle disputes, which she said are spurring sectarian and insurgent violence.
Not only have killings among Iraqis been unabated, but American casualties have also spiked in recent days as well.
In violence Thursday, car bombs killed four and wounded 28 in Baghdad alone. At least 21 U.S. soldiers have been killed since Saturday, an unusually high number, mostly in Baghdad amid a massive security sweep by American and Iraqi forces.
"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.
Rice met with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and other officials as the sectarian spiral of revenge killings between Shiites 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. Shiite and Sunni parties in al-Maliki's coalition accuse each other of backing militias.
Al-Maliki told Iraqi state TV on Thursday that the country is in the final stage of "confronting the security challenge" and that security would be achieved "within the two or three months to come."
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.
"Obviously the security side and the political side are linked," she told reporters.
In an interview with the Associated Press, al-Maliki said that once the Iraqis work out their differences, "the political solution must be obligatory, one that all parties adhere to. The presence of parties with militias in the government is not acceptable."
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."
Al-Maliki made curbing Baghdad violence his first priority after taking office in the spring, but curfews and other measures have failed to make much difference.
On Monday, al-Maliki announced a new security plan to unite the feuding parties, creating local committees in which Sunnis and Shiites will work together to manage efforts to stop the violence on a district-by-district level.
But contentious details of the plan still must be worked out _ and Shiite and Sunni parties have twice put off negotiations.
"This is, of course, a time of challenge for the Iraqi people," Rice said after a brief meeting with al-Maliki. "They are a committed people and we know they will overcome these challenges."
In addition to meeting al-Maliki and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, Rice also saw Sunni leaders.
Rice's plane circled the Baghdad airport for 35 minutes before landing Thursday because of a threat from "indirect fire" _ either from mortar rounds or rockets _ in the airport area, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters.
___
Eds: AP reporter Qassim Abdul-Zahra contributed to this report.


Updated : 2020-12-02 21:06 GMT+08:00