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US Vice President Biden Meets Iraqi Leaders During Baghdad Visit

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden met with American troops in Baghdad to celebrate Independence Day, before meeting with Iraqi political leaders to try and coax them into speeding up the process of forming a new government.

The Vice President met at length Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki and his top rival, former prime minister Iyad Allawi, they have been wrangling for weeks over which man will get to form Iraq's next government.

Mr. Biden kept his high-profile meetings low-key and largely away from the media spotlight, juggling conversations with Mr. Maliki, Mr. Allawi and President Jalal Talabani.

While visiting U.S. troops, he insisted that developments in Iraq were moving in the right direction:

"This nation, once embroiled in sectarian strife and violence, is moving toward a lasting security and prosperity with a government that represents the interests of every member of the community in Iraq," he said. "Because until they get that straight - and they are getting it straight - there is no real shot they can become what they are capable of."

Attempts to break the political logjam met a mixed reaction from Iraqi politicians, with some hailing Mr. Biden's efforts to "narrow the gap" between opposing viewpoints, and others complaining that he was trying to "impose a U.S. solution to an Iraqi internal crisis."

Incumbent Prime Minister Maliki, who has been trying to out-maneuver Mr. Allawi, claims he has the largest electoral bloc in parliament, despite having won two fewer seats, outright, in the March parliamentary election.

Maliki attempted to play the statesman Sunday, telling journalists that bickering politicians should not let their differences affect the interests of the country and its people:

He says Iraqi leaders differ over political issues, and quarrel over such matters, but that they must not be divided over issues related to the economy, development and serving Iraqi citizens.

Former Prime Minister Allawi indicated that Vice President Biden did not make any specific proposals to him, but stressed the need to form a new government quickly to prevent outside forces from exploiting the political vacuum and creating further instability.

He says that he and the vice president discussed the prevailing situation in Iraq and in the region and the need for us to form a government quickly. He adds that Mr. Biden did not make any specific proposals, but expressed the need for stability to keep outside forces from exploiting the situation.

A number of explosions in Iraq Sunday demonstrated the tenuous security situation across the country. In the Western Iraqi city of Ramadi, a female suicide bomber blew herself up outside provincial government offices, killing and wounding several dozen people. Two other suicide bombers blew themselves up in Kirkuk and Mosul.

U.S. forces are scheduled to withdraw all but 50,000 troops from Iraq by the end of August. U.S. commanders have insisted the withdrawal is going ahead according to schedule and that Iraq's political vacuum is not expected to affect it.