SALADHIN, Iraq (AP) _ Secretary of State of Condoleezza Rice, on a heavily guarded surprise trip to Iraq on Sunday, urged patience for the country's fragile new government and said Iraqis have remarkable political progress that can overcome a recent surge of violence.

``Obviously there is a security situation ... I want and have wanted to go to Iraq at right time, and the right time is when they had a new government,'' Rice said en route to this town in Kurdish northern Iraq.

Rice flew immediately to the mountain stronghold of Kurdish Democratic Party Massoud Barzani. She rode in an Apache military helicopter under extremely heavy security.

The one day trip was Rice's first visit to Iraq for the nation's top diplomat.

Rice was a chief architect of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.