Page last updated at 00:14 GMT, Monday, 1 December 2008

Rice starts Europe tour in London

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
Condoleezza Rice is in the final weeks of her job

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is due in London for the start of a European tour, less than two months before she leaves her job.

She will meet UK PM Gordon Brown and Foreign Secretary David Miliband, and is likely to discuss the Mumbai attacks, Somalia and DR Congo.

Her tour also includes discussions at Nato headquarters in Brussels about how to handle relations with Russia.

On Wednesday, she will travel to India for talks with the government there.

The White House said that her visit would be a "further demonstration" of solidarity with India, following the attacks which left at least 172 dead in the country's commercial capital.

Indian relations

Ms Rice's tour begins as her successor is widely expected to be announced by the US president-elect.

There has been continuing speculation that Barack Obama, due to take over from President George W Bush in January, will appoint former First Lady Hillary Clinton as the US's top diplomat.

But BBC diplomatic correspondent Bridget Kendall in London says pressing international matters mean US domestic politics are unlikely to overshadow Ms Rice's European tour entirely.

Coming so soon after militants attacked several sites in the Indian city of Mumbai over three days Ms Rice's talks with Mr Brown and Mr Miliband are expected to include the likely effect on relations between India and Pakistan.

India has accused Pakistan of involvement with the attacks, saying the gunmen came from there. But Pakistan has denied that charge.

Other pressing problems include the piracy off the coast of Somalia and the violence in DR Congo.

Russian tension

The focal point of the foreign ministers' meeting at Nato will be about relations with Russia, which have been in something of a freeze after this summer's conflict in Georgia.

During the conflict, Georgia's attempts to regain control of its breakaway region of South Ossetia were repelled by Russian forces.

Already Ms Rice has hinted that the US does not want more confrontation with Russia, so will not be pushing for Georgia and Ukraine to be allowed to join the so-called Nato membership action plan.

But less clear is whether Nato members will decide to resume the dialogue with Russia they broke off in the wake of the Georgia crisis.

By Ms Rice coming to London first, the US and Britain have a chance to swap notes and clarify positions in advance, our correspondent adds.

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