Rice hails Iraq's progress toward national reconciliation

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice brought Iraq's leader a double-edged message: Praise for progress toward ending the nation's sectarian rifts, but also a warning not to squander the momentum after many false starts on reconciliation. The Iraqi parliament took an important step last week to open the way for low-ranking members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party to reclaim government posts and pensions. Rice congratulated al-Maliki for the "quite remarkable" progress on national reconciliation. But she pressed for more, telling al-Maliki not to lose a "golden opportunity" during US President George W. Bush's final year in office to bring Sunni Arabs into a unity government, according to three Iraqi officials with knowledge of the talks.