U.S. Vice President Cheney pays surprise visit to Iraq
(Xinhua) - U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney made an unscheduled stop in Iraq on Monday, before embarking on a tour of several Middle Eastern countries.
The visit was not included in the schedule announced earlier by the White House.
After arriving at Baghdad International Airport, Cheney boarded a helicopter to the high-security Green Zone, where he is expected to meet with top U.S. and Iraqi officials, including the top U.S. commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Malki.
This is Cheney's third trip to the country as vice president. His last visit was in May 2007.
Oman was scheduled to be the first stop on Cheney's nine-day Mideast tour, which will also take him to Saudi Arabia, Israel, the Palestinian territory and Turkey. His talks with regional leaders are expected to touch upon issues such as the future of Iraq, Iran's nuclear program, high oil prices and the
Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
Cheney's visit to Iraq comes just days before the fifth anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of the country, which is March 19 in the U.S. and March 20 in Iraq. Since 2003, some 160,000 U.S. troops have been deployed in Iraq and the American toll in the conflict is nearing 4,000.