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Bush Meets Maliki in Baghdad, Praises Troops


President Bush is on his way home after a surprise trip to Baghdad designed to show support for the new Iraqi government. Mr. Bush also met with some of the more than 130,000 US troops serving in Iraq.

The public was told the president would speak Tuesday with Iraqi leaders via videoconference from his Camp David retreat. Instead, they met face to face in Baghdad.

"I've come to not only look you in the eye," said Mr. Bush. "I've also come to tell you that when America gives its word, it keeps its word."

It was a show of support for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his fledgling government. Seated around a table in the secure green zone of Baghdad, they talked about the problems facing Iraq and the challenges ahead.

"I have expressed our country's desire to work with you, but I appreciate you recognize the fact that the future of the country is in your hands," he added.

Prime Minister Maliki learned the president was in Baghdad just five minutes before they met in the U.S. diplomatic compound. He told Mr. Bush that Iraqis are determined to succeed.

Speaking in Arabic, the prime minister said Iraq will stay united and it will stay strong. He spoke of his appreciation for U.S. efforts in Iraq, and expressed the hope American troops will be able to go home soon. God willing, he said, all the suffering will be over and all the soldiers will be able to return to their countries.

President Bush also met with Iraq's president and the speaker of the Iraqi parliament. But his only extended public comments came at his last stop, an emotional meeting with Americans serving in Iraq.

"Thought I would stop by say hello," said Mr. Bush.

He offered praise for the troops, and told them that they are making history. He said there has been progress in Iraq, but acknowledged dangers remain. Mr. Bush made specific mention of the killing last week of terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

"Our military will stay on the offense. We will continue to hunt down people like Mr. Zaqawi and bring them to justic," he added.

The president left Baghdad with a message for the Iraqi people. Seize the moment, he said, urging them to build a government of, by and for the people.