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US VP Visits Iraq Following US Troop Withdrawal From Cities

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden has arrived in Baghdad for a visit the White House says is aimed at reiterating the U.S. commitment to withdraw forces from Iraq.

U.S. officials say Biden will discuss the importance of achieving political stability in the country during talks with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Vice President Jalal Talabani.

The vice president's visit comes just two days after the United States withdrew troops from Iraqi cities. The White House on Tuesday appointed Biden to oversee Iraq policy.

Earlier on Thursday, Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammed al-Askari told reporters Iraq aims to strengthen its military to deal with security challenges once all U.S. troops leave Iraq by the end of 2011.

Al-Askari praised Tuesday's U.S. pull-out from urban areas, saying it took place peacefully without problems.

Thursday, bombings killed at least three people in the Baghdad area, the first such violence since the withdrawal.

Authorities say a roadside bomb struck an Iraqi army patrol in the capital Thursday, killing an Iraqi soldier and wounding at least eight others.

Officials say at least two people were killed and 15 others wounded in a car bombing south of Baghdad.

A security spokesman, General Qassem Mohammed Atta in the capital says Iraqi troops are taking all precautions to stop terrorist attacks.

Meanwhile, police say a car bomb killed one person and wounded six others near the northern city of Kirkuk. Earlier on Thursday, police said gunmen shot and killed an Iraqi army officer near his home in Kirkuk.

U.S. President Barack Obama has pledged to withdraw all combat troops from Iraq by September of next year, leaving only advisors and trainers.

At present, about 130,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq to conduct combat duties outside cities, and to advise Iraqi forces within cities.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.