Rice visits UK

Condoleezza Rice, US secretary of state, is in London today to visit foreign secretary David Miliband, with the Mumbai attacks topping the agenda.

Conflicts in Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo are also expected to be discussed.

Ms Rice will later travel to Brussels and India, to express Washington’s solidarity following the attacks.

“We and Britain have very close ties,” Ms Rice said.

“We have maintained very close contact. We’ve cooperated very closely on issues concerning Pakistan, concerning India. And so I think this is fortuitous that I’m going to be in London for these discussions.”

Western powers are watching the war of words between India and Pakistan with increasing urgency, after both countries’ media started trading accusations following the Mumbai attacks.

The neighbours are both nuclear powers with a long history of conflict, and the US and UK desperately need Pakistan to maintain patrols of its semi-lawless tribal regions, rather than redirect them towards a conflict with India.

Analysts are still unable to ascertain the veracity of reports saying at least some of the gunmen were from Pakistan. The Pakistani government denies the claim.

Meanwhile, the chief minister of the Maharashtra state in India has offered his resignation over last week’s terrorist attacks, which killed almost 200 people.

Vilasrao Deshmukh’s offer to resign comes after the death-toll from the attacks was revised to 172.

Mr Deshmukh’s deputy has already said he will leave his role in light of the attacks, as has home minister Shivraj Patil.

“If the responsibility of the attacks is on the chief minister, then I will go,” said the Maharashtra minister.

“The final decision is with the high command [of the ruling party].”

On Monday rescue teams began sifting through the debris of the two luxury hotels attacked by gunmen last Wednesday, one of several sites targeted by militants.

The authorities believe bodies of the terrorists’ victims have been removed from the Taj Mahal and Oberoi hotels.

One of the attackers – who claimed to come from a previously unheard of group called Deccan Mujahideen – survived the counterterrorist response to last week’s attacks and the hostage situations that followed.

Ms Rice is expected to dedicate her time in Brussels to dealing with Russia’s resurgent ambitions, but will have a chance to clarify her position with Mr Miliband in London first.
Her tour begins just as president-elect Obama is expected to announce his choice for her post – former rival Hillary Clinton.