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Rice Looks for International Support for Iraq

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (search) held up Iraq as an example of democracy in the making ahead of an international conference to marshal support for the new Baghdad government.

"In Iraq (search), millions of citizens are refusing to surrender to terror their dream of freedom and democracy," Rice said Monday. She spoke in Cairo, Egypt, in an address making the case for greater political reform throughout a region governed mostly by family dynasties and centralized, nearly single-party regimes.

Rice leaned on allies Egypt and Saudi Arabia (search) to make internal changes, and also to support efforts to remake Iraq and establish peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

She was leaving the region Tuesday for the Iraq session in Brussels, Belgium.

The one-day gathering is co-chaired by the United States and the European Union. It is meant to match Iraqi needs to international expertise in everything from roads to a court system.

It is also an opportunity for European and Arab nations that opposed the U.S.-led war in Iraq to contribute practical help instead of troops.

The Brussels conference is expected to yield new offers from Middle Eastern and European countries to forgive the heavy debt accumulated by Iraq under Saddam Hussein.

The Iraqi delegation will address three main issues: the political process, the economy and reconstruction, and security and rule of law.

Officials are expected to urge Iraq's neighbors, including Syria and Iran, to control their borders to stop the flow of insurgents into Iraq.

The leader of the Sunni Iraqi Islamic Party, Mohsen Abdel-Hamid, will suggest how to involve Sunnis in the political process — seen as a key to curbing the insurgency in Iraq.

Iran was invited to the conference, although the United States has had no diplomatic relations with that country since the 1979 takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran.

It was not clear whether Rice would see any Iranian counterpart at the meeting.

On Monday, she singled out Iran and Syria as undemocratic examples. She called Syria a "police state."

Iranians voted in a presidential election over the weekend, but Rice said, "The appearance of elections does not mask the organized cruelty of Iran's theocratic state."

The number of candidates was limited and ex-president Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, the leading candidate heading into a runoff, charged that "reactionaries" in the government misused public money to mount a slander campaign against him.