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Rice and Straw Visit Baghdad, Prod Negotiators

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice makes an unannounced visit to Baghdad, where she urged Iraqi politicians to wrap up negotiations over the formation of a national unity government. It's been over three months since national elections were held. Traveling with British foreign secretary Jack Straw, Rice arrived in the middle of an overnight thunderstorm.

During their visit Rice and Straw will meet with President Jalal Talabani, beleaguered Prime Minister Ibrahim al Jaafari, and his Shiite deputy, Adil Abdul Mahdi. Rice said she and Straw brought messages from Washington and London directly appealing to Iraqi politicians to quickly form a government.

Leaders of the main factions have been meeting to work out the roles and hierarchy of the new government, but they're still squabbling over the post of prime minister. Both the Sunni and Kurdish factions want the Shiite alliance to replace candidate Ibrahim al Jaafari with someone else.

Britain has been Washington's greatest ally in the Iraq war, contributing troops to the initial invasion. It has the second largest number of troops in the country, stationed mainly in the south.

It's Jack Straw's third visit to Iraq this year, while Rice was last in the country in November.

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Jamie Tarabay
After reporting from Iraq for two years as NPR's Baghdad Bureau Chief, Jamie Tarabay is now embarking on a two year project reporting on America's Muslims. The coverage will take in the country's approx 6 million Muslims, of different ethnic, socio-economic and cultural backgrounds, and the issues facing their daily lives as Americans.
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