VP Biden in Baghdad on 3rd visit this year

September 15, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Iraq Tuesday on a previously unannounced mission to show the White House remains focused on the Iraq war despite military pullbacks and increased attention on Afghanistan. The trip is Biden's third this year and is a chance for him to meet with the full range of Iraqi leaders both in Baghdad's central government and those of the Kurdish region in the northeast of the country, where violence continues to flare.

Biden also is to meet with members of the United Nations mission in the country, U.S. officials said.

Biden, who oversees Iraq policy for the Obama administration, made his last visit to the country on July 4 to spend the U.S. Independence Day with the troops. During that trip, he also met with his son, Beau, who is an Army captain serving in Iraq.

Iraq's government hopes that on this visit the U.S. vice president will have suggestions on how to ease tension with Syria, which Iraq's prime minister has accused of harboring Saddam Hussein loyalists wanted in recent bombings.

Iraqi leaders also plan to discuss their preparations for January's national elections and persistent violence in the country's north, said an Iraqi government official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief reporters.

As the number of bombings and other attacks declines elsewhere in Iraq, the north remains a battleground between Sunni Arab extremists and Iraqi and U.S. forces.

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