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Biden Visits Iraq For Formal End Of U.S. Combat Operations

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (file photo)

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (file photo)

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Baghdad today ahead of the September 1 ceremony marking the formal end of U.S. combat operations in Iraq.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's adviser, Yasin Majeed, says the prime minister and Biden are to meet August 31 to discuss, as he said, "the political situation and withdrawal, and Iraqis taking over responsibility for security."

Biden is also expected to use his visit to press Iraqi officials to form a new government after six months of political deadlock followed the inconclusive March 7 parliamentary elections.

The September 1 ceremony also marks the start of so-called "Operation New Dawn," indicating the end of America's mission in Iraq after invading the country and toppling Saddam Hussein's regime in 2003.

Some 50,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq. The two nations have signed a security agreement that says all U.S. forces must leave Iraq by the end of 2011.

Biden's visit comes at a time when Iraq is on high alert for attacks by insurgents after a series of bombings that killed dozens of people and underscored the fragility of Iraq's recent security gains.

compiled from agency reports