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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Rice and Rumsfeld's Iraq visit "useless, unimportant, just another desperate move"

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice both arrived in Baghdad today in an apparent show of support for Iraq's new leader.

The two, arriving without notice, were to meet with Prime Minister designate Nouri Maliki, other Iraqi officials and U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad.

"We just want to make sure there are no seams between what we're doing politically and what we're doing militarily," Rice told reporters on her plane en route to Iraq, according to the Associated Press. "Secretary Rumsfeld and I are going to be there together because a lot of the work that has to be done is at that juncture between political and military," Rice said.

Maliki, a tough-talking Shiite, has less than 30 days to assemble the new government. The country — depressed politically and economically — has slid ever closer to an all-out civil war since the American invasion of 2003.

(Maliki also said he has changed from using the pseudonym Jawad that he had used to protect his family while he was an exiled opposition figure.)

Some Iraqis doubt whether the government will be formed without U.S. pressure. "The Americans are in a hurry to form the government and they know it will not be formed if left to Iraqis," said Izzat Shabander, a politician from former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's slate. "Rice came to be a basic partner in forming the government," especially as it relates to key security and intelligence positions, he said.

But others thought the visit could backfire. Mahmoud Othman, a Kurdish legislator, said the visits were "useless, unimportant."

"I guess they are worried about the circumstances in Baghdad and what will follow," he said. "It would be more appropriate if they would leave us alone ... let us solve our problems by ourselves."

"Enough is enough," said Sheik Mahmoud Sudani, a politician affiliated with radical Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr. "Rice's trip to Iraq at this critical time is just another desperate move by the Americans to try to impose themselves on our new government. But they have lost their influence."

In a sign of how the country has changed in the last three years, the most positive reaction to the visits came from Sunni leaders — the most recent political bedfellows of the U.S. administration.

Americans can help coordinate and speed up the process, "which will benefit everyone," said Azhar Samaraii, a Sunni legislator with the Iraqi Islamic Party.

As Rice and Rumsfeld lunched with Khalilzad, violence continued across the country.

Near the disputed northern city of Kirkuk, a roadside bomb killed one civilian, and police found a body in a village south of the city, authorities said.

In the capital, a bomb hidden inside a nylon bag and brought onto a bus killed four people and injured 21. Two other people were killed and four were injured by a roadside bomb targeting police commandos on patrol in the western part of the city.

Another person was killed by a different roadside bomb. Police also recovered eight bodies from various neighborhoods in the capital and the U.S. military announced that American-led forces killed a dozen suspected rebels during a raid in Yusifiyah on Tuesday.