Condoleezza Rice has joined Donald Rumsfeld on a surprise visit to Iraq.
The US Secretary of State broke off from a tour of Europe to visit Baghdad, where she’s to meet with Prime Minister elect Jawad-al-Maliki. She said that the creation of a government of national unity by Maliki would be a turning point for Iraq and called on him to select his cabinet team on the basis of competence rather than sectarian considerations. Defence Secretary Rumsfeld had arrived in Iraq some four hours ahead of Rice. The US is keen to start pulling troops out ahead of congressional elections in November, and he said the Iraqi government was making “impressive progress” in training up its own forces. But Rumsfeld refused to be drawn on what Maliki’s appointment might mean for Washington’s withdrawal schedule.