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Rice Goes to Baghdad; Bush Warns on Oil


U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is making an unannounced visit to Baghdad. VOA White House Correspondent Paula Wolfson reports Rice slipped into Iraq from Saudi Arabia, where she was accompanying President Bush on his Mideast tour.

Rice arrived in Baghdad with no advance notice, leaving Riyadh early in the morning. She immediately went into talks with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Rice also visited Baghdad last month.

A White House spokesman says Tuesday's visit provides an opportunity to build on progress made and encourage further reconciliation. The spokesman says she will urge Iraqi leaders to build on legislation passed just days ago to lift restrictions on members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party. Those restrictions - put in place after the America-led invasion in 2003 - banned Baathists from government employment.

News of Rice's surprise visit to Iraq came shortly after President Bush completed a meeting in Riyadh with Saudi entrepreneurs.

The president seldom talks in public while in the presence of Arab leaders about the impact high oil prices are having on the U.S. economy, seeking to express his concern in private.

But this time, with television cameras in the room, Mr. Bush brought up the issue, and warned of possible consequences. The president said "I talked to the ambassador, and will again talk to his majesty tonight about the fact that oil prices are very high, which is tough on our economy, and that I would hope, as OPEC considers different production levels, that they understand that if one of their biggest consumers' economy suffers, it will mean less purchases, less oil and gas sold."

The president's second round of talks with King Abdullah will take place at the Saudi leader's country estate near Riyadh, where he raises thoroughbred horses. In 2002, then Crown Prince Abdullah paid a similar visit to President Bush's ranch in Texas.

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