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Cheney (left) also met General David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, at the U.S. Embassy (AFP) May 9, 2007 -- U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney has met Iraqi leaders during an unannounced visit to Baghdad, as violence continued to claim more victims in Iraq.


Cheney held talks with General David Petraeus, commander of U.S. troops in Iraq, before meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, top government ministers, and President Jalal Talabani.


"We have got a wide range of issues here in Iraq, as well as the region, focusing, of course, on things like the Baghdad security plan, ongoing operations against the terrorists, as well as the political and economic issues that are before the Iraq government," Cheney told journalists before his meetings today.


After his meetings with Iraqi officials, Cheney spoke about the Iraqi parliament's plan to take a two-month break.


"I did make it clear that we believe it is very important to move on the issues before us in a timely fashion and that any undue delay would be difficult to explain and that we hope that they would approach these issues with all deliberate [speed]," he said.


Iraq's parliament speaker, Mahmud al-Mashhadani, condemned what he said was interference in parliamentary affairs by the Iraqi government and "the government of those who have been the cause of this mess" in Iraq.


Cheney's visit marks the first leg of his Middle East tour, which will include stopovers in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan. The tour is aimed at convincing Iraq's mostly Sunni neighbors to back the 4-month-old U.S.-led crackdown on insurgents in Iraq.


Meanwhile, a car bomb has killed 19 people and wounded more than 50 in the northern Iraqi city of Irbil.


The U.S. military has also said that a U.S. attack helicopter killed five bystanders, including two children, when it fired on insurgents north of Baghdad on May 8. However, the military has denied reports that the helicopter had fired on a primary school.


The military also said three of its soldiers have been killed in Iraq over the last 24 hours.


U.S. War-Funding Debate Continues


The White House said today that U.S. President George W. Bush would veto a bill drafted by Democratic leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives that would fund the Iraq war only for three months.


The Democrats' proposal would pay for the war through July. It would then give Congress the option of cutting off money if conditions do not improve.


Bush has requested more than $90 billion to fund the war through September. Last week, Bush vetoed a bill tying war funding to a timeline to start withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq in October.


(compiled from agency reports)



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