Rice: Iraq Should Open Economy, Up Security

The new Iraqi government must improve security, open up its economy and "open political space for all members of Iraqi society who reject violence," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (search) said Wednesday.

Rice told participants in an international conference on Iraq's (search) reconstruction that the world has obligations to support and strengthen postwar Iraq.

"Iraq, in turn, has obligations of its own," if it is to make the best use of the international financial largesse flowing to Iraq, Rice said.

Although the United States has repeatedly stressed that Iraq's Shiite-dominated coalition government must find ways to more fully include the minority Sunni Arabs (search), Rice went slightly further Wednesday by including economic reform and security obligations on Iraq's to-do list.

Security has largely been the job of U.S. forces in Iraq, although Iraq's own internal security and police forces are gradually assuming a greater role.

Rice is co-chairing the conference with European and Iraqi leaders. The session of about 80 nations in Brussels is intended to match the practical needs of the new Iraqi government with international donations of expertise and other support.

The conference is addressing three main issues: the political process, the economy and reconstruction, and security and rule of law.

The gathering is not a donors' conference, but an Iraqi government spokesman said the country will ask nations to forgive Iraq's heavy debts and to encourage investment in the country.

In recent days, European Union officials have said they would push Iraq's remaining creditors to forgive most of the approximately $70 billion that Iraq owes.

Ahead of Wednesday's session, however, Rice suggested that real progress on debt relief would be left for a separate donor conference. That session is planned for July in Jordan.

"I don't expect that there will be really an outcome in that regard," Rice said of the possibility of debt relief now. "Those discussions are going on."

Saudi Arabia is one of the major creditor countries, and Rice said she would raise the issue of debt forgiveness with her Saudi Arabian counterpart in Brussels.

Brazil, China, India and Kuwait area also significant creditor nations.

Last November, numerous other industrialized countries agreed to forgive 80 percent of what prewar Iraq owed them, a deal worth nearly $40 billion. The United States went further and forgave all the approximately $4 billion it was owed.

"There's a reliable guide and I would hope that Iraq's neighbors would follow suit, but I don't know of any breakthrough that's expected at this particular meeting," Rice said.

Rice spoke after finishing a four-day diplomatic tour of the Middle East.