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Rice Praises Newly Passed Iraqi Reconciliation Law

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made a surprise visit to Iraq Tuesday, where she applauded Iraqi officials for passing a law to allow thousands of former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party back into the government. Middle East analysts examine the political situation in Iraq.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    Secretary Rice peeled away from President Bush's Middle East trip for a visit to Baghdad to applaud some rare good news.

    On Saturday, the Iraqi parliament passed a law to allow thousands of members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party to reclaim government jobs and pensions. The compromise is designed to draw Sunnis, who were purged from government posts after Saddam's fall, back into the political process.

    Rice met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and encouraged him to build on that success by pushing for provincial elections and a law to share oil revenue, as well.

    Standing alongside Foreign Minister Zebari in Baghdad today, Rice praised the new law.

    CONDOLEEZZA RICE, U.S. Secretary of State: This law, the Accountability and Justice Law, is clearly a step forward for national reconciliation. It is clearly a step forward for the process of healing the wounds of the past.

    And it will have to be followed up by implementation that is in the same spirit of national reconciliation. It is also that any law that passes anywhere in the world has to be implemented in a way that is in the spirit of the law. And so that is the work ahead.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    This latest step toward political reconciliation is but one of 18 benchmarks the Bush administration has been lobbying for.

  • CONDOLEEZZA RICE:

    I hope that we will focus on what needs to be done, but also on how much has been done, because when I hear that the surge was to give the Iraqi people a chance for political reconciliation, I say that's absolutely right.

    And while it hasn't always moved as fast as some of us sitting in Washington would like, it has certainly moved. And given the history, and the legacy, and the stains of tyranny, it's moved quite remarkably.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Reaction to the new law, which still faces procedural hurdles, was mixed. Opponents said it would allow alleged criminals to return to positions of power within government.

  • SALEH AL-MUTLAQ, Iraqi Parliament Member (through translator):

    It's a law without justice; this law breeches human rights.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    But others welcomed it.

  • JAMAL ADNAN, Iraqi Civilian (through translator):

    I support the Accountability and Justice Law on the condition that it should not be based on sectarianism and it should not harm anyone whose hands are not stained with Iraqis' blood.

  • HUSAM AL-KARRADI, Iraqi Civilian:

    Such a decision as they made in the Iraqi parliament I think is going to be in the right way to make the life better for the Iraqis.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Rice returns to Saudi Arabia to rejoin President Bush later in the day.