In Baghdad, Rice praises law reintegrating former Baathists
The US supports a new law designed to allow some members of Saddam Hussein's party to return to government.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made a quick trip to Baghdad on Tuesday, during which she told Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that the US is pleased with a new law to politically rehabilitate members of executed former dictator Saddam Hussein's Baath Party and urged him to move faster on political reconciliation.Skip to next paragraph
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"President Bush and Secretary Rice decided this would be a good opportunity for the secretary to go to Baghdad to meet with Iraqi officials to build on progress made and to encourage additional political reconciliation and legislative action," National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said.
The de-Baathification law is one of 18 steps which the United States considered benchmarks to promoting reconciliation among the country's Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds.
A senior aide to al-Maliki said Rice also encouraged the prime minister to promote the progress of the other benchmark legislation, including provincial elections, constitutional amendments and a law to share the country's oil and gas resources among the different sects.
"Iraq is moving forward in a way that is promising but still fragile," Rice told reporters after talks with Iraq's leaders.
"I must say that from the time I was here a month ago I have also seen progress on the political front, particularly in the reconciliation that the Iraqi people themselves are carrying out at the grassroots front," she said.
Steps taken early in the US occupation in Iraq had stripped tens of thousands of members of the Baath Party – most of whom were Sunni Arabs, the community that has driven Iraq's insurgency – of their government jobs. Many analysts said this had fueled anger at the new, Shiite-led political order the US helped install in the country.
The US has now made political reconciliation between Shiite and Sunni a key goal to ultimately ending the war there. But some critics believe the new law, which will allow some Baathists to go back to work, does not go far enough.