President Obama makes surprise Iraq visit (Lead)

April 7th, 2009 - 10:44 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama Baghdad, April 7 (DPA) US President Barack Obama landed in Baghdad Tuesday, beginning a previously unannounced visit at the end of his eight-day European tour.
Obama, who departed from Istanbul where he made an appeal for a new US relationship with the Muslim world, is to visit US troops and speak by telephone with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.

Obama’s helicopter transfer to the meeting with the two Iraqi leaders, which on security grounds was not pre-announced, was cancelled because of poor weather.

Gibbs went on to say that the surprise visit was made because President Obama wished to show his appreciation to the US troops serving in the country, and to consult with the Iraqi leadership.

Gibbs said Obama would “spend some time with the men and women who are serving their country so honourably here.”

Observers prior to Obama’s arrival reported hectic activity in Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. The Voices of Iraq news agency reported the surprise arrival of President of Iraqi Kurdistan Massoud Barzani and Kurdish Prime Minister Nerchivan Barzani.

Osama al-Najafi, a Sunni member of parliament with the Iraqi National List, welcomed Obama’s visit, telling the DPA that “Obama’s policy is based on openness to the Arab and Islamic world, seeking to change the United States’ image and to rectify the grave mistakes (former US president George W.) Bush and US forces committed in Iraq.”

Obama arrived in Baghdad at 4.42 p.m. (1342 GMT) from Istanbul, where he said he was “deeply committed to rebuilding a relationship between the United States and the people of the Muslim world. One that is grounded in mutual interest and mutual respect.”

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