April 20th, 2008 06:34 EST
Condoleezza Rice materializes in Baghdad
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived in Baghdad Sunday for a visit that had not been announced in advance. She is expected to discuss ways to promote political reconciliation.
Rice is holding talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki among other top officials. She also paid honor to Americans recently killed in the Green Zone, the guarded compound that houses the U.S. Embassy and the Iraqi government.
While on the way to the region, Rice called on Arab nations to give more support to Iraq`s government to reward its efforts to improve security.
Rice will be going from Iraq to diplomatic meetings in Bahrain and Kuwait.
U.S. officials praised Iraq`s Prime Minister al-Maliki after he ordered a crackdown last month on armed groups in the southern city of Basra, a stronghold of radical Shi`ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
On Saturday, the cleric threatened "open war" against the Iraqi government unless attacks against his supporters cease.
Iraqi troops on Saturday seized control of a stronghold of Sadr`s militia in Basra.
The military offensive against Sadr`s Mahdi Army militia has triggered clashes in Shi`ite areas across Iraq, especially in the cleric`s Baghdad stronghold, Sadr City.
At least 13 people have died in fighting in Sadr City since Friday.
Fighting between Iraqi troops and Mahdi Army fighters also has been reported in the southern city of Nasiriyah.
In violence Sunday, police say gunmen kidnapped at least four people, including two university students, on a highway north of Baquba in central Iraq.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuter.