Vice President Biden Lands in Iraq
Updated 3:46 p.m.
By Garance Franke-Ruta and Michael A. Fletcher
Days after the U.S. withdrew troops from Iraqi cities, Vice President Biden arrived in Iraq today to visit those troops and meet with Iraqi leaders, the White House announced today.
Biden willl use the surprise two-day visit to try to foster political reconciliation and build relationships with Iraqi leaders.
"The Vice President will reiterate the United States' commitment to fully implement the Security Agreement and the Strategic Framework Agreement and to carry out President Obama's plan to draw down U.S. forces," the White House said in a statement. "He will discuss with Iraq's leaders the importance of achieving the political progress that is necessary to ensure the nation's long-term stability."
Upon arrival, Biden was greeted at Baghdad International Airport by the Iraqi foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, and deputy foreign Minister, as well as the commanding general for multinational forces in Iraq, Gen. Ray Odierno, and Lt. Gen. Charles Jacoby.
While there, Biden will meet with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and Speaker of the Council of Representatives Ayad al-Samarrai. He will also meet with U.S. embassy staff and representatives of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq.
In his meetings with Iraqi leaders, Biden is expected to be press the importance of breaking political impasses on key issues including the division of oil revenues and autonomy for the various religious and ethnic groups. The White House sees making political progress as crucial to ending the violence that has spiked in Iraq in recent weeks.
"The bigger challenge is going to be, can the Shia, the Sunni, and the Kurds resolve some of these major political issues having to do with federalism, having to do with boundaries, having to do with how oil revenues are shared," President Obama told reporters last week. "If those issues get resolved, then I think you will see a further normalization of the security atmosphere inside of Iraq."
This is Biden's second trip to Iraq this year and his first as vice president. It marks a continuation of his role as a vital personal ambassador and international trouble shooter for the Obama administration.
In recent weeks, he has visited the Balkans, where ethnic tensions have been flaring again. In the coming weeks, he also is scheduled to visit Ukraine and Georgia on the heels of Obama's visit to Russia next week. The White House sees that visit as an important signal of U.S. support for the former Soviet republics which now have tense relations with Russia.
Posted at 1:05 PM ET on Jul 2, 2009
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