Saturday, January 27, 2007

Pelosi in Iraq to see for herself how war is going

Pelosi in Iraq to see for herself how war is going

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a leading critic of President George W. Bush's plan to send more troops to Iraq, arrived in Baghdad on Friday for a closer view of a war she opposes.

Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's office said he assured her he wanted his forces to take control of security from U.S. troops as soon as possible and called for an acceleration of their training and more military equipment.

A U.S. embassy official said Pelosi, the first woman speaker of the House, was in Iraq as part of a six-member congressional delegation for meetings with Iraqi and U.S. officials.

Pelosi emerged from her talks with Maliki saying "we come out with a greater understanding of each other's point of view".

She also said the delegation wanted to show U.S. troops in Iraq "the appreciation of the American people for what they are doing ... to applaud their patriotism, the sacrifice they are willing to make".

Pelosi has already said the new Democratic-controlled Congress will vote against the new strategy but will not seek to block funding for a troop increase.

Some 66 U.S. soldiers have died so far this month, taking the U.S. death toll since the war began in March 2003 to 3,067. Many of Bush's critics in Washington fear sending more troops will simply give militants more targets.

Bush has said the United States must not quit Iraq now as that would leave Iraqis prey to more sectarian violence and allow al Qaeda to operate from Iraq with impunity.

Pelosi, a key player in the Democratic takeover of Congress, has helped lead opposition in Washington to Bush's retooled Iraq strategy which envisages sending 21,500 more troops to help quell raging sectarian violence, especially in Baghdad.

She has accused Bush of playing politics with soldiers' lives and said after his State of the Union address to Congress this week that he had ignored the concerns of the American public over the unpopular war.

Democrats are pushing for a phased withdrawal from Iraq. Opinion polls show Americans are strongly opposed to Bush's plan for a troop increase.