Bush makes surprise visit to Baghdad

US President George Bush arrived in Baghdad Tuesday, June 13, on a surprise visit kept secret even from Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, the American leader's second visit since his troops invaded the country three years ago.

Bush makes surprise visit to Baghdad

"I have come to not only look you in the eye; I've also come to tell you that when America gives its word, it will keep its word," Bush told Maliki, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).

"I have expressed our country's desire to work with you, but I appreciate you recognize the fact that the future of your country is in your hands," he added.

Bush's remarks were heard at the secluded Camp David presidential retreat by Vice President Dick Cheney, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and other senior aides, who listened in on the meeting via video link.

Bush met Maliki as well as with his new cabinet, including the key ministers of interior, defense and oil, at the US embassy in Baghdad.

He also met President Jalal Talabani and was scheduled to hold talks with the speaker of Iraq's parliament, and a number of leaders from the country's business, cultural and educational circles. The visit was expected to last five hours.

Bush's visit comes almost a week after Al-Qaeda leader in Iraq Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed in a US air strike, an event hailed by the US as a major breakthrough.

Bush has seen his standing in public opinion polls plummet to the lowest level for a US president in a generation, with three in five Americans believing the March 2003 invasion was a mistake.

US public unease with the war is growing in a congressional election year and Bush faces calls to set a timetable for withdrawal of some 130,000 US troops.

Spy Novel

Bush's remarks were heard at Camp David by Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld and other senior aides. (Reuters)

The visit is Bush's first visit since he flew in to eat an emotional Thanksgiving dinner on November 27, 2003, with 600 troops on a visit also organized under the greatest secrecy.

The trip was so secret that not even al-Maliki knew that the US leader was on the way, the White House said.

Expecting a planned teleconference with Bush and top White House officials Maliki and his senior cabinet officials were called to the US embassy in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone, Bush advisor Dan Bartlett said.

Only after Bush had landed by helicopter in the Green Zone did they find out the meeting with the US leader would be in person.

When Bush left home, only Cheney, Rice and Rumsfeld knew about it.

The trip unfolded in the stealth and secrecy of a spy novel.

The White House had broadcast to the world that he was holding a two day conference on Iraq's future at the Camp David presidential retreat with his top aide.

Early on Monday evening, during an after-dinner session with cabinet and security officials, Bush said he was tired, "losing altitude", and heading off to bed.

They assumed he was resting up for the planned Tuesday teleconference with Maliki.

Instead, Bush snuck out and within 15 minutes was on a special helicopter flying to Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington where his Air Force One jet was waiting.

Only a few hours before the departure, in restaurants, cafes and homes around Washington, reporters who cover the White House were contacted individually and suddenly and told to tell nobody -- not even spouses -- that they would be traveling.

Some were reportedly asked if they could disappear for a day or two without their offices noticing.

On Monday the reporters, stripped of all telephones and other communications devices, were bussed into the military airbase in a roundabout way to avoid attention, and taken to Air Force One, which was parked away in the shadows away from the main terminal.

At 9:07 pm (0107 GMT), Bush climbed aboard and announced to the waiting scribes "The POTUS is on board," using the Secret Service acronym for the President Of The United States.

Left in the dark at Camp David were Bush's attorney general, energy secretary and others who had expected to be involved in high-level Iraq talks the next day.

No Timetable

Bush's Republic party will submit a resolution to the House of Representatives Thursday rejecting a timetable for a US troop withdrawal from Iraq.

The resolution "declares that it is not in the national security interest of the US to set an arbitrary date for the withdrawal or redeployment of US armed forces from Iraq."

Republicans hope with the debate to refocus Americans on national security issues and boost their sagging approval ratings ahead of key legislative elections in November.

Seven months ago, the House rejected a resolution calling for the "immediate" withdrawal of US troops from Iraq introduced by Democratic congressman John Murtha.

Since then, Murtha's call has garnered the support of House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi.

Bush insists that any US military drawdown in Iraq will be "based upon the conditions on the ground."

He refused to back the commander of US forces in Iraq, General George Casey, who on Sunday said a partial withdrawal was possible before the end of the year.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has called on Bush to come up with a plan "that provides our troops with an exit strategy from this seemingly intractable conflict."

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16
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