Rice praises Iraq progress

( AP ) - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said during a surprise trip to Iraq Tuesday that national reconciliation has moved along "quite remarkably," citing a new law that lets former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party to reclaim government jobs or pensions.

Rice, who split off from President Bush's Mideast tour for the visit to Baghdad, said the Iraqi parliament's approval of the U.S.-sought benchmark law Saturday was a first step and showed that last year's "surge" of American forces was paying dividends.

Rice left Riyadh, the Saudi capital, to personally convey Bush's encouragement about signs of progress in Baghdad and decided that she could "help push the momentum by her very presence."

She congratulated the prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, on the passage of the so-called de-Baathification legislation reinstating thousands of former Saddam Hussein loyalists to government jobs and pushing for progress on other benchmark laws.

Bush said he would not go to Iraq while traveling in the region. There had been widespread speculation he would make a visit.

"President Bush and Secretary Rice decided this would be a good opportunity for the secretary to go to Baghdad to meet with Iraqi officials to build on progress made and to encourage additional political reconciliation and legislative action," National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said.

Rice met with al-Maliki and spoke to reporters at the side of Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari.

Ali al-Dabbagh, al-Maliki's spokesman, said Rice and the prime minister met for about 45 minutes, of which 30 minutes were one-on-one. He said she also briefed him on Bush's trip.

The de-Baathification law is one of 18 steps which the United States considers benchmarks to promoting reconciliation among the country's Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds.

A senior aide to al-Maliki said Rice also encouraged the prime minister to promote the progress of the other benchmark legislation, including provincial elections, constitutional amendments and a law to share the country's oil and gas resources among the different sects.

On Saturday, Bush had commended Iraq's parliament for the de-Baathification law's passage.

"It's an important step toward reconciliation," Bush said then, after more than a year of prodding by the U.S. for action on the law. "It's an important sign that the leaders of that country understand that they must work together to meet the aspirations of the Iraqi people."

At the same time, Bush said more progress was needed.

Meanwhile, a fire broke out early Tuesday in a major oil refinery in the southern city of Basra, the Iraqi oil ministry said. Four workers suffered burn injuries.

Iraqi Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani said a preliminary investigation results showed that a U.S. helicopter hovering over the refinery was to blame.

"This is what caused the fire and led to the leakage of a huge amount of liquid gas as the blaze hit the gas production unit," al-Shahristani said in a statement. He added that his ministry "had warned many times against aircraft flying above oil institutions and especially refineries."

It was not clear how the helicopter's presence caused the fire, though aircraft often release flares to ward off ground attacks.

The fire at the Shuaiba refinery started at 7 a.m. "due to an explosion," said Assem Jihad, the Oil Ministry spokesman.

"Firefighters and technical teams have controlled the fire, which hit the gas unit," Jihad told The Associated Press. Production was continuing.

Basra, where about 80 percent of Iraq's oil reserves are located, is Iraq's second-largest city, 340 miles southeast of Baghdad.

The Shuaiba refinery, on the southern outskirts of Basra, has a capacity of 160,000 barrels per day but has been functioning below capacity at about 100,000 bpd.

Last week, a technical fault in a production unit sparked two fires in the country's largest oil refinery in the northern town of Beiji, 155 miles north of Baghdad.

An engineer was killed and 10 workers suffered burns in those fires.

Iraq's three main oil refineries, Beiji, Shuaiba and Dora in Baghdad - are running at roughly half their capacity, processing a total of about 350,000 bpd, compared to about 700,000 before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

The shortfall has forced Iraq to turn to imports of oil products such as gasoline and kerosene from neighbors Iran, Kuwait and Turkey. Iraq, the holder of the world's third-largest crude oil reserves with an estimated 115 billion barrels, aims to boost crude production to 3 million bpd by the end of this year.

Azerbaijan's Azeltech talks difficulties in buying composite materials for production
Azerbaijan's Azeltech talks difficulties in buying composite materials for production
Azerbaijan's logistic company talks reasons for decline in freight traffic volumes
Azerbaijan's logistic company talks reasons for decline in freight traffic volumes
Microsoft Azerbaijan talks increase in demand for software
Microsoft Azerbaijan talks increase in demand for software
Loading Bars
Azerbaijan's Internal Ministry: Entry, exit from Sheki district restricted (PHOTO)
Coronavirus cases count exceeds 200 in Kazakhstan
Most popular transport for visiting Turkey revealed
Azerbaijan's Internal Ministry: Entry, exit from Gazakh district restricted (VIDEO)
China's success in curbing coronavirus spread affected oil market - Iran's official
Turkey reveals volume of cargo transshipment from Moldova through its ports
Iran opens its first mobile coronavirus lab (PHOTO)
Total amount of donations to Azerbaijan’s Fund to Support Fight Against Coronavirus announced
BP: 3D seismic survey program on Block D230 completed successfully
Iran reveals funds allocated to battle coronavirus spread
Turkey names new minister of transport and infrastructure
Iran's export down since early March
Online supermarket created with help of Azerbaijani Agency for Development of SMEs
Iran talks investments made in Persian Gulf Mining and Metal Industries SEZ
Forecast growth in new solar, wind plants to be wiped out for 2020
Exports of products up in Iran's Isfahan province
Turkey reveals volume of cargo transshipment from Georgia through its ports
Oil price slump could lead to flow of capital towards renewable energy
Production shut-ins amid lower oil prices may be substantial this time
Azerbaijani company begins production of pure alcohol
Gross external debt of Georgia increases
International Investment Position of Georgia down
Iranian currency rates for March 28
Azerbaijan's parliament discloses MPs' coronavirus test results
Iran announces number of wells drilled in oil, gas sector
Azerbaijan’s Salyan District Executive Power announces tender for repair services
Azerbaijan’s Salyan District Executive Power announces tender
Anglo Asian Mining continuing with gold production in Azerbaijan
Iran's president urges for proper implementation of social distancing plan
WB provides additional support to improving efficiency and innovation in Azerbaijan’s judicial system
Outlook for oil market remains bleak in near-term
Kazakhstan increasing furniture, wood imports from Turkey
Armenia violates ceasefire with Azerbaijan 21 times
Coronavirus significantly affects real estate market of Georgia
Iran develops medkits for coronavirus testing
Iran hopes to curb and even eliminate coronavirus spread in upcoming weeks
Iran's housing sales drop due to coronavirus outbreak
Georgian Poti port receives permission for expansion
Georgian TPP receives electricity generating license
Galt & Taggart Investment Bank forecasts possible coronavirus impact on Georgian economy
Review of car re-exports statistics in Georgia
Review of Georgian banking sector external debt
NATO praises Georgia’s efforts against coronavirus
TAP to shape Italy’s gas market in several ways: WoodMac
Australia tightens social distancing rules to combat coronavirus
U.S. COVID-19 cases top 100,000 as deaths surpass 1,500
Number of COVID-19 cases increases in Georgia
Brunei reports first coronavirus death
Mexico registers 717 coronavirus cases, and 12 total deaths
Turkey to cancel all int'l flights over COVID-19 fears
Chile government negotiates bill-paying delay for poor as coronavirus bites
Oman announces 22 new cases of coronavirus, 131 in total
Four passengers die on cruise ship with coronavirus outbreak off Panama
Belgium extends lockdown period until April 18
COVID-19 death toll rises to 12 in Israel
Italy has yet to hit coronavirus peak, lockdown set to be extended
Azerbaijan tightens special quarantine regime
How EU gas markets prepared for coronavirus?
British PM Johnson has coronavirus, self-isolates in Downing Street
Azercell called on Azerbaijanis to show solidarity in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic
43 more test positive for coronavirus in Azerbaijan
Greenfields Petroleum announces agreement to defer payment of its senior secured debt
Azerbaijan’s president signs decree to exempt import of some medical supplies from VAT
Azerbaijan's Azeltech talks difficulties in buying composite materials for production
AZAL talks rules for flights on Baku-Nakhchivan-Baku routes for Azerbaijani citizens
Azerbaijan's logistic company talks reasons for decline in freight traffic volumes
Operation of express buses to airport limited in Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan restricts entry/exit from regions
Volume of cargo transshipment through Turkish port of Cesme announced
Azerbaijan's parliament to discuss joining another international document
Azerbaijani MPs to sit no less than 2 meters apart at parliament's session
Current account deficit reaches its historical minimum in Georgia
Volume of cargo transshipment from Slovenia through Turkish ports disclosed
Volume of cargo transshipment from Tunisia through Turkish ports disclosed
Georgia increases imports of chemical products from Turkey
Georgian TBC Bank signs loan agreement with OPEC Fund
BOTAS International Limited reveals volume of oil transshipment from Ceyhan terminal
Volume of loans issued by commercial banks of Georgia decreases
S&P talks Kazakhstan's mitigation of current oil price shock effects
Volume of cargo transshipment from Iran through Turkish ports disclosed
Turkey reveals volume of cargo transshipment from Lebanon through its ports
Volume of cargo transshipment from Libya through Turkish ports disclosed
Volume of cargo transshipment from Romania through Turkish ports disclosed
Azerbaijan reveals volume of cargo transportation by all modes of transport
Turkey reveals volume of cargo transshipment from Algeria through its ports
All ventures to suspend operation in two Kazakh cites to battle coronavirus
Movement of transit trucks ensured in Azerbaijan, says ministry (PHOTO/VIDEO)
Azerbaijan's Emergency Ministry increases number of tents at border reception and sorting points (PHOTO/VIDEO)
Coronavirus cases detected in two more Kazakh regions for first time
Belavia extends flight suspension to Georgia
Azerbaijan launched additional six plants producing medical alcohol, says minister
Weekly review of Georgian capital markets
PM: Azerbaijani state to undertake all required measures to combat coronavirus
Azerbaijan increases building gypsum production
Another provocation of Armenian Armed Forces suppressed: Azerbaijan’s State Border Service
Total amount of donations to Azerbaijan’s Fund to Support Fight Against Coronavirus announced
Regular bus services may be suspended in Azerbaijan’s capital in case of non-compliance with quarantine
Medical Insurance Agency: Over 3,300 people quarantined in Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan sees growth in car manufacturing
Kristall Plus CJSC begins medical alcohol production in Azerbaijan
All news