Bush confers with prime minister, rallies U.S. troops in surprise visit to Baghdad

U.S.President George W. Bush told Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in a surprise face-to-face visit on Tuesday that the United States stands with the new Iraqi government as it struggles to achieve peace and stability. "When America gives its word, it keeps its word," he said.

In a trip designed to both showcase that support and ease war concerns at home, Bush also emphasized that the future of the war-scarred country rests in Iraqi hands.

"The decisions you and your cabinet make will be determinate as to whether or not a country succeeds that can govern itself, sustain itself and defend itself," he told al-Maliki.

Later, addressing a group of about 300 cheering U.S. troops, Bush said: "Our job is to help them succeed and we will."

Bush slipped away from what had been billed as a two-day meeting at Camp David for a secretive 11-hour overnight flight that brought him to his first direct talks with al-Maliki and members of his new unity government.

In all, the president spent about five hours in Baghdad before climbing back on Air Force One for the return trip.

Only a handful of close aides knew about the trip in advance.

Al-Maliki himself did not know the president was in Baghdad until five minutes before they met in the blue-domed palace once used by Saddam Hussein but which now houses part of the U.S. embassy in the heavily fortified Green Zone.

The Iraqi president had come to the embassy expecting to participate in a satellite video conference with Bush and aides from the presidential mountain retreat in Maryland, reports AP.


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