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Rice Makes First Visit to Madrid Since Spanish Withdrawal From Iraq

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has criticized Spain for failing to support human rights in Cuba, as she flew to Madrid for talks with Spanish officials.

The secretary told reporters accompanying her that the communist Caribbean nation will soon undergo a "major transition," and democratic states have an obligation to act democratically. She said they should not give a regime the idea it can just transition from one dictatorship to another.

Secretary Rice is the highest-level official to visit Spain since Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero withdrew troops from Iraq in 2004. She is scheduled to meet Spanish King Juan Carlos before conferring with Mr. Zapatero and Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos.

Rice also plans to meet with the country's opposition leader, Mariano Rajoy, before departing for London for talks with outgoing British Prime Minister Tony Blair Saturday.

The secretary's visit to Madrid is meant to mend relations between Spain and the U.S. The two nations have clashed over a number of issues, including the Spanish government's troop withdrawal and its ties to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Prime Minister Zapatero is one of several European leaders not to be invited to the White House since taking office.

Rice traveled to Spain from Germany, where late Thursday, she criticized Russia for a decline in democracy, and for objecting to a proposed U.S. missile defense system in Europe. She made her comments during a speech at an awards dinner in her honor in Berlin.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.