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Rice, Hagel Spar at Senate Hearing on Iraq

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice answers questions from Sen. Chuck Hagel Thursday.
Karen Bleier / AFP/Getty Images
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AFP/Getty Images
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice answers questions from Sen. Chuck Hagel Thursday.

Hostile questioning and tense exchanges marked Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Thursday. She was on a mission to defend President Bush's plans for an expanded troop presence in Iraq.

Among the calmer observations made to Rice came from Delaware's Sen. Joe Biden, a Democrat.

"I believe the president's strategy is not a solution, Secretary Rice," Biden said. "I believe it's a tragic mistake."

Republicans had sharp questions, too, including Sen. Norm Coleman of Minnesota:

"To put the lives of Americans more in the center of that, without first having something that's substantial, something we can point to, other than this sense of trust... other than looking somebody in the eye and having a conversation... I'm not prepared to support that," Coleman said.

When Rice started describing progress in Iraq, Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska interrupted:

"Your intelligence and mine is a lot different," Hagel said. "To sit there and say that... Madame Secretary, that's just not true. That is not true."

"There is a point that I'd like to make about Iraqis killing Iraqis... what that really is," Rice said.

"Well, what that is is pretty obvious to me, really," Hagel said.

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Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.