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30 July 2004 -- U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, speaking today during an unannounced visit to Baghdad, said the United States is determined to overcome "challenges" in Iraq.

Powell, whose surprise visit comes amid a Middle East tour, held talks with Iraqi interim President Ghazi al-Yawar and other officials.

Powell told reporters afterwards he used the talks to emphasize that U.S. support for the interim government remains strong.

"I also reaffirmed our determination and commitment to keep working with the interim government as they go about the process of establishing democracy on the basis of freedom and human rights in Iraq. We are facing challenges in the weeks ahead that we are determined to overcome," Powell said.

Powell is the most senior U.S. official to visit Iraq since U.S. forces handed over power to the interim Iraqi government one month ago.

He met 29 July with Iraq's interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi in Saudi Arabia. They discussed a Saudi proposal for Arab and Muslim countries to send troops to Iraq.

Indonesia and Malaysia have already said they will not contribute soldiers to the Saudi-proposed force.

(Reuters/AFP)
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