In Baghdad, Rice Acknowledges Frustrations in U.S.

By Ernesto Londoño
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 18, 2007

BAGHDAD, Feb. 17 -- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice expressed support for a nascent Baghdad security plan during an unannounced visit to the capital Saturday, but she reminded Iraq's leaders that Americans were growing increasingly frustrated with the unyielding lethality and cost of the war.

Rice spoke approvingly of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's leadership, urged Iraqi officials to enact laws to fairly administer the country's vast oil reserves and acknowledged widespread disapproval of the Bush administration's policies in Iraq among many Americans and U.S. lawmakers.

She arrived in the capital a day after the U.S. House passed a nonbinding resolution rejecting the administration's troop increase in Iraq, where violence has become the norm in the streets and squabbling dominates the political process.

"The American people want to see results and aren't prepared to wait forever," Rice said during a 30-minute conversation with reporters in U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad's living room. "But we're also not saying to the Iraqis: Get it done by X-date, or else. That's not the way one treats a partnership in these difficult circumstances."

Rice met with Maliki and President Jalal Talabani and later had lunch at the U.S. ambassador's residence with a group that included the Kurdish deputy prime minister and the country's foreign minister. She said the Baghdad security plan, which was formally launched this week, was bringing "new hope and a new optimism" to the besieged Iraqi capital. A spokesman for the security plan said attacks have fallen 80 percent since it was launched Wednesday, and there were relatively few reports of violence Saturday.

Ten people were killed and 90 injured in two car bombs in the northern city of Kirkuk, police said, and an improvised explosive device killed one person in Baghdad. The U.S. military announced that a Marine was killed Friday in combat in the western province of Anbar. His name was not released.

Rice praised Maliki for vowing to target lawlessness across sectarian lines.

"Thus far, they seem to be carrying through with the rules of engagement that would suggest that justice and law enforcement is going to be evenhanded," Rice said. "These are the first days of the security plan. It's not going to be one day and then everyone can declare victory . . . There are going to be bad days in the Baghdad security plan when violence is up."

Rice asked insistently about the progress of legislative bills that would regulate the exploration and revenue sharing of the country's oil reserves, according to Iraqi officials who spoke to her.

Iraqi officials tasked with creating a draft law have failed to present a bill to parliament. At stake is the extent to which the central government will control exploration and management of oil fields and whether revenue will be distributed equally across the country.

Iraq's oil reserves are concentrated in the northern Kurdish area and provinces in the predominantly Shiite south.

"I did hear it's almost complete," Rice said about a status report she received on the draft of the bill. "I've heard that it's complete before. And this time, I hope it really is almost complete -- as in complete."

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