Rice Meets With Iraqi Prime Minister

In this image released by the United States Embassy in Baghdad, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice meets Iraqi President Jalal Talabani in Baghdad, Thursday, Oct. 5, 2006. U.S. Secretary of State Rice arrived in Baghdad on Thursday on a surprise visit to Iraq. AP Photo/US Embassy

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met Thursday in Baghdad 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, and Shiite and Sunni parties in his coalition accuse each other of backing militias.

Before the meeting, she told reporters she would tell Iraq's leaders they have limited time to settle political differences spurring sectarian and insurgent violence.

"They don't have time for endless debate of these issues," Rice said during a news 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."

In other developments:

  • A military transport plane that flew Rice and her party into Baghdad Thursday 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.

  • The United States doubts that the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq has been killed in a raid in the western Iraqi town of Haditha. However, the military is performing DNA tests on one of the four militants killed in that raid.

  • An intelligence report seen by CBS News says a number of Iraqi hospitals and morgues have become command and control centers for the Mahdi Army, a Shiite militia led by anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. CBS News chief foreign correspondent Lara Logan says the report details incidents in which Sunnis hospital patients have been dragged from their beds and murdered.

    Al-Maliki is under intensified pressure to find an end to the Shiite-Sunni killings that have torn Iraq apart for months despite the government's calls for militias — many of which have ties to parties in the government — to put down their arms.

    "The dissolution of militia must be through the political powers. There is more than one way leading to a solution, and the militias will dissolve themselves," al-Maliki told the Associated Press during an "iftar" dinner, the meal that ends the daily Ramadan fast.

    "Militias do not conform with a government. Political parties have militias and they are part of the government and participate in the political process. The parties are required to dissolve these militias," he said.

    Al-Maliki has frequently called for militias to be dissolved, insisting that weapons must only be in the hands of national security forces. But Sunni leaders have accused the government of balking at moving forcefully against Shiite militias blamed in much of the violence because of their links to Shiite political parties.

    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.
    • James Klatell

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