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Rumsfeld, Rice visit Iraq

The two top US official made a surprise visit to Iraq in a strong show of support for the country's new Govt.

india Updated: Apr 26, 2006 20:06 IST

The United States' top two foreign policy officials on Wednesday flew unexpectedly into Iraq separately in a strong show of support for the country's emerging new government.

The top US commander in Iraq expressed optimism that Iraq's selection of senior government leaders marked a major step toward creating conditions that could allow a substantial number of US troops to leave in he months ahead.

"I'm still on my general timeline," Army Gen George Casey told reporters after meeting with US Defence Secretary Donald H Rumsfeld, who arrived unannounced for a day-long series of meetings with senior US commanders and the newly selected Iraqi leaders.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice flew into Baghdad from Turkey a few hours later to shore up Washington's show of support for the newly emerging Iraqi government.

"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.

"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."

She and Rumsfeld planned to meet jointly with the newly designated Prime Minister and Rice scheduled a separate one-on-one meeting with him for later.

Casey did not elaborate on his timeline for reducing US forces, but he has said in the past that a "fairly substantial" reduction could be made this year if the insurgency did not grow worse and if Iraq made continued progress on the political and security training fronts.