Annan endorses Arab League efforts to aid Iraq

UN chief Kofi Annan called Saturday for national reconciliation in Iraq during a surprise visit, arriving just as a car bomb exploded near a street market in a Shii'te neighborhood of Baghdad and killed eight weekend shoppers. The UN leader also endorsed Arab League efforts to organize a conference bringing together Iraq's varied groups to heal the nation's divisions. It was Annan's first trip to Iraq since the 2003 US-led invasion and the third by a high-level international official in as many days. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited Friday and British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw the day before. All three encouraged disaffected Sunni Arabs, who form the core of the insurgency, to participate in next month's parliamentary elections.