BAGHDAD — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, making an unannounced visit Tuesday to Baghdad, called Iraq's future "promising but still fragile."
"I think people know a democratic and unified Iraq is here to stay," Rice said at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs near the fortified Green Zone, where the U.S. Embassy is.
She had split off from the entourage of President Bush, who spent the day in Saudi Arabia, to make her second visit here in less than a month.
Her talks with Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki and Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari followed passage of legislation Saturday by the Iraqi parliament allowing some former Baath Party members to return to civil service jobs or receive their pensions. After the bill passed, there were signs that Sunni Muslim ministers might rejoin the Shiite Muslim-led administration.
Rice praised the legislation as a step toward national unification. Nearly five years ago, after the U.S.-led invasion, the U.S.-governed Coalition Provisional Authority passed an order barring tens of thousands of members of toppled dictator Saddam Hussein's Baath Party from civil-service, military and other government jobs.
On Monday, Vice President Tariq al Hashemi, a Sunni, indicated that members of the Sunni Accordance Front, which he leads, might return to the government. The group quit the government last August, weakening Maliki's leadership and attempts to further unify the country.
"The front is ready to go back to its seats, but we are waiting for what the government will accept from the demands the front made," Hashemi said, according to his Web site.
Those demands include the release of those jailed without charges or conviction and the guarantee of more Sunni participation in the government.
Hashemi and Maliki met late Monday and discussed ways to cooperate better, said Sadiq al Rikabi, a top adviser to the prime minister. He couldn't provide details of the meeting, but said the two had agreed "on principle."
Asked whether the prisoners would be released, Rikabi said a program was in place to approve amnesty.
"It's not a Hashemi issue. It's an Iraq issue," he said.
Also on Tuesday, four mortar rounds and a rocket landed in the Green Zone, Iraqi police said. A U.S. government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to talk to journalists, said there were no reports of injuries.
In central Baghdad, a homemade bomb exploded, injuring six civilians. Two police officers who responded to the blast were injured by a second explosion, but no one was killed.
In Mosul, a suicide bomber died in a failed attack after police shot him at a checkpoint. Shortly afterward, a suicide car bomb detonated near the checkpoint, killing a police officer and injuring three other people. The checkpoint is the shared responsibility of municipal police and one of the Sunni awakening councils, U.S.-equipped militias that provide local defense.
About 30 miles west of Basra in southern Iraq, a major oil refinery caught fire shortly after dawn, the Oil Ministry said. It said the cause was being investigated.
(Lannen reports for the Lexington, Ky., Herald-Leader.)