U.S. Vice President Joe Biden spent the final day of his trip to Iraq
celebrating the U.S. Independence Day holiday with American troops in
The vice president attended a ceremony Saturday at one
of Saddam Hussein's former palaces for more than 200 soldiers from 59
countries who were becoming U.S. citizens.
Biden told the new
citizens "you are the reason America is strong." He said Saddam, the
former Iraqi dictator, is "rolling over in his grave right now."
U.S. vice president had been scheduled to visit the semi-autonomous
Kurdish region in northern Iraq later Saturday, but was forced to
cancel those plans because of a severe sandstorm that blanketed Baghdad.
is the first U.S. Independence Day celebration since the country
withdrew its troops from Iraqi cities and towns. Biden warned Iraqi
leaders the United States may not be around to help if Iraq is allowed
to revert to sectarian violence.
Biden told Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki Iraq faces a "hard
road" ahead if it is going to find lasting peace and security.
U.S. vice president also said Mr. Maliki was correct in indicating that
Iraq must use the political process to resolve its remaining
Biden's visit comes as violence in Iraq reached
its highest levels in about eight months. Hundreds of Iraqi supporters
of anti-American Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr marched through the
Baghdad slum of Sadr City Friday, shouting and burning American flags.
Defense Ministry says it already is looking ahead to the next phase of
the U.S. troop withdrawal, which will see the U.S. remove about 100,000
troops from the region. About 130,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq to
conduct combat duties outside cities, and to advise Iraqi forces within
Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.