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Rice to Discuss Iraq Situation in Warsaw, Ankara

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says last Sunday's Iraqi elections were an affirmation of the Iraqi people's democratic aspirations, and she is asking Europeans to set aside their reservations about the U.S. decision to go to war there and to, in her words, "support those aspirations going forward."

Here in Berlin, the secretary was unable to persuade German Chancellor Gerhardt Schroeder to commit troops to Iraq, or to drop his government's opposition to a formal NATO military role there.

However, Mr. Schroeder did say that Germany is prepared to step up the training mission it is conducting for Iraqi forces in the United Arab Emirates, news that Ms. Rice says is "heartening."

The secretary of state began her overseas mission in Britain, the main military ally of the United States in Iraq. She goes from here to Poland, another major contributor to the Iraq coalition, where she can be expected to urge Prime Minister Marek Belka and other officials to extend the Polish troop commitment.

Iraq is also expected to dominate the agenda late Saturday in Ankara, where the Turkish government has major concerns about developments in neighboring Iraq, including fears that increased autonomy for Iraqi Kurds could fuel separatist feelings among Turkey's Kurdish minority.

Ms. Rice's press appearances on the trip thus far have been dominated by questions about increasingly critical remarks by Bush administration officials, including the secretary of state, about Iran's alleged support for terrorism and quest for nuclear weapons.

She and President Bush have said the United States supports the Iranian people's aspirations to be free, and not under the rule of what Ms. Rice terms "an unelected few," a reference to the country's ruling clerics.

But she also told a London news conference that the idea of using U.S. military force to bring about regime change in Iran is "simply not on the agenda, at this point in time": "We believe, particularly in regard to the nuclear issue, that while no one ever asked the American President to take all of his options, to take any option, off the table, there are plenty of diplomatic means at our disposal to get the Iranians to finally live up to their international obligations," she said.

Ms. Rice told Germany's ZDF television the United States has by no means exhausted all opportunities for a diplomatic solution on the Iranian nuclear program, including a possible referral of the matter to the U.N. Security Council for sanctions.

While in Ankara, Ms. Rice will also have a working dinner with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, to lay groundwork for the meeting between President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin February 24 in the Slovak capital, Bratislava.

Ms. Rice, a Russia policy expert, told wire service reporters earlier this week that moves toward political and economic reform in Russia have been "uneven" and that a real deepening of bilateral relations would require greater democratization there.

But she said the situation in Moscow is far from the authoritarian regimes of the Soviet era and said the two countries work together productively in key areas, including the war on terrorism.

Ms. Rice goes to the Middle East Sunday for talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders before rounding out her trip with four more stops in Europe next week.