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Condoleezza Rice (file photo) (AFP)
11 November 2005 -- U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul today on a previously unannounced visit.
Rice's visit comes as Iraq is preparing for parliamentary elections on 15 December.
Rice said that "the United States is not going to support any particular political candidate." She told reporters traveling with her that her main goal is to urge the country's Sunnis, Shi'a, and Kurds to reach out "across the sectarian divide" and create a single country where everyone feels "fully protected."
Rice's arrival comes one day after more than 40 people were killed in attacks in Iraq. Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the deadliest attack, which involved a suicide bomber in a Baghdad restaurant that killed 35.
Rice's stop in Iraq comes at the start of a regional tour that is scheduled to include a visit to Bahrain today before continuing on to Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the West Bank.