Biden meets senior Iraqi officials in Baghdad

September 17th, 2009 - 12:47 am ICT by IANS  

Baghdad, Sep 16 (DPA) US Vice President Joe Biden Wednesday brushed the lethal rocket attacks that had greeted his arrival in Baghdad the night before while exchanging gifts and joking with Iraqi officials.
“You can’t get rid of me,” Biden joked when meeting his Iraqi counterpart, Adil Abdel-Mahdi. “I just keep coming back.”

Iraqi police said that two people died and five were injured in the rocket attacks. The Mujahidine Army insurgent group claimed responsibility and said the attacks were a “reception” for Biden, according to the Washington SITE Intelligence Group.

This is the US vice president’s third visit to Iraq this year, following trips in July and January.

Earlier Wednesday, Biden met Sunni politicians Ayad al-Samarrai, who is speaker of the parliament, Rafi al-Issawi, deputy prime minister, and Sunni vice-president Tariq al-Hashemi.

An Iraqi government statement, issued after Biden and al-Issawi met, said the two had discussed the future of US troops in Iraq, the political process in the country, and security concerns, but did not elaborate.

At each brief meeting, the US vice president greeted the Iraqi officials warmly, with traditional kisses on each cheek, and giving each a crystal bowl engraved with his signature, according to a reporter travelling with him.

In exchange, he received a golden statue of a palm tree.

Biden Tuesday night told reporters he had “a personal relationship” with Iraqi leaders, and that he had “won a measure of trust” from them.

Following his meeting with Biden, al-Samarrai, the speaker of the parliament, said that Iraq remained interested in “building international support for the state, the democratic process, and in addressing all outstanding issues”.

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