Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is downplaying the latest delays in the naming of candidates for two key Iraqi Cabinet posts. Rice spoke after Iraq's parliament put off action on the defense and interior ministries.

Instead of focusing on the delay, the secretary of state says it is important to look at just how far Iraq has come.

"We are a long way from the governing council, which had a new president every month to now, the first freely elected permanent government in Iraq," she said.

During an interview on the CBS television program, Face the Nation, Rice acknowledged the challenges facing Iraq are great. But she stressed, the only way to deal with these difficulties is through the new unity government.

"Of course, it is difficult. And, of course, there is violence, and everyone is concerned, in particular, about sectarian violence that has risen, but the way to handle this is through a government of national unity, with a strong prime minister, which Mr. Maliki certainly is," said Rice.

It was one of a series of appearances by the secretary of state on the broadcast news programs that fill the Sunday morning airwaves in the United States. Earlier, on Fox News Sunday, she urged patience, expressing confidence the open Cabinet posts will be filled soon.

"I really do believe they will get it settled in the next few days. But, the important thing here is that they get it right. And, when they get it right, and they will get it right, everybody will forget how long it took them," she commented.

Rice noted that in the interim period leading up to the naming of his interior and defense ministers, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has been handling security matters.

Wrangling among political factions prompted Mr. Maliki to leave the two key posts empty when he announced his Cabinet last month. Iraq's parliament had planned to meet Sunday to deal with the vacancies, but, at the last minute, the session was postponed.