Cheney delivers urgency to Baghdad

Published May 10, 2007

BAGHDAD - Vice President Dick Cheney flew to Baghdad Wednesday to urge top Iraqi officials to move as quickly as possible toward a political reconciliation between Sunni and Shiite factions, whose bitter divisions underlie much of the country's violence.

Cheney, in an unannounced visit to the well-guarded Green Zone, met with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, President Jalal Talabani and other leading Iraqi military and government officials. Cheney pressed for movement on key political issues such as revising the constitution, passing legislation to manage oil revenue and fostering cooperation between Sunnis and Shiites, according to Iraqi officials.

U.S. officials traveling with Cheney said he was also concerned that Iraq's Parliament was considering a two-month summer vacation at a time when important legislation is pending. The Iraqi government has made little progress on the benchmark goals established by the Bush administration.

At a news conference, Cheney said his discussions with U.S. military and Iraqi officials suggest that sectarian violence is declining in Iraq but that the situation remains precarious.

"I think everybody recognizes there still are serious security problems, security threats; no question about it, " he said. "But the impression I got from talking with them - and this includes their military as well as political leadership - is that they do believe we are making progress, but we've got a long way to go."

Also Wednesday

Violence: A suicide truck bomb killed at least 14 and injured at least 80 Wednesday in Irbil, the capital of Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish region, the first major attack there in three years.

Security: A sharp increase in mortar attacks on the Green Zone - the one-time oasis of security in Baghdad - has prompted the U.S. Embassy to order employees to wear flak vests and helmets in unprotected buildings or outside.

Information from McClatchy Newspapers was used in this report.