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U.S.'s Rice visits Iraq for talks

BAGHDAD- U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited Iraq on Tuesday for meetings with the Iraqi government, which last week passed the first in a series of long-awaited laws aimed at reconciling Iraqis, officials said.

Rice was sent to Baghdad on a mission to try to build on what U.S. President George W. Bush's administration sees as progress on political reconciliation, the White House said.

Bush and Rice decided that she should break away from his visit to Saudi Arabia and make an unannounced stop in Iraq, White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe told reporters in Riyadh.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is seen in Baghdad in this December 18, 2007 file photo. Rice visited Iraq on Tuesday for meetings with the Iraqi government, which last week passed the first in a series of long-awaited laws aimed at reconciling Iraqis, officials said. (REUTERS/Bob Strong/Files)

Rice's trip followed the Iraqi parliament's long-awaited passage of a de-Baathification reform law earlier this week, seen as one the key steps needed to bridge the country's sectarian divide.

"President Bush and Secretary Rice decided this would be a good opportunity for the secretary to go to Baghdad to build on progress made and to encourage additional political reconciliation and legislative action," Johndroe said.

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