NATO Secretary-General de Hoop Scheffer (file photo)
3 December 2004 -- NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer is paying a surprise visit to Iraq today.
A statement issued by the alliance headquarters in Brussels said de Hoop Scheffer was visiting soldiers of the NATO mission launched in August to train Iraq's armed forces. He was also meeting military commanders and Iraqi officials.
NATO released no further details of the trip, which was not announced in advance.
The visit is the first trip by a NATO chief to Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.
NATO commander U.S. General James Jones, accompanying de Hoop Scheffer on today's visit, expressed surprise at the slow pace of restoring security to Iraq.
Jones also urged NATO member states opposed to the U.S.-led war in Iraq -- in particular Germany and France -- to join other members of the bloc in training Iraqi military forces.
NATO has about 70 instructors and support staff in Iraq and is currently finalizing plans to expand the mission to up to 400 instructors.
Meanwhile, separate blasts today
targeted civilians and Iraqi police in the capital Baghdad.