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Biden Meets with Key U.S. Leaders in Iraq

Vice President Joe Biden met with the top American military commander and diplomat on Friday as he made his first visit to Iraq after being appointed to oversee the administration's Iraq policy.

Biden's arrival in Baghdad late Thursday came just came days after all U.S. combat troops were pulled out of Iraq's cities and towns on June 30, as part of a security agreement that will see all American soldiers out of the country by the end of 2011.

The U.S. will gradually begin drawing down forces over the coming months until there are no combat troops left in Iraq by next August.

During his visit, Biden will meet with President Jalal Talabani and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Wearing a tan suit and suede combat boots, he had breakfast with Gen. Ray Odierno and Ambassador Christopher Hill, America's top soldier and diplomat in Iraq.

A White House statement said that during the visit, Biden will reiterate the U.S. commitment to carry out President Barack Obama's plan to withdraw combat forces. He also will press Iraqi leaders to make more progress toward political reconciliation. It was his first trip to Iraq as vice president.

Al-Maliki named the day U.S. combat troops withdrew, June 30, as "National Sovereignty Day" and declared it a public holiday.

On that same day, the White House said that Biden will oversee and work with its government to overcoming their political differences and achieve reconciliation.

Biden arrived as violence flared in the Iraqi capital, which has seen scores of bombing in the past two weeks.

At least 447 Iraqi civilians were killed in June, double the toll from the previous month, according to an Associated Press tally.
By Associated Press writer Kim Gamel