President Bush has made a surprise visit to Iraq to visit American troops during the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday.

The president's plane landed under cover of darkness in Baghdad for a two-hour dinner with U.S. troops who were told their guest of honor would be the U.S. Administrator for Iraq, Paul Bremer.

The secret visit began with the president leaving his Texas ranch late Wednesday and returning to Washington to pick up other officials for the flight to Baghdad.

White House officials told reporters covering the president's supposed Thanksgiving weekend in Texas that he and the First Lady were having free-range turkey with their daughters and his parents, the former President George Bush and former First Lady Barbara Bush.

The trip to Iraq is the first by a U.S. president and its secrecy underscores the considerable security concerns of having Mr. Bush in Baghdad during armed resistance to U.S. occupation.

The president's written statement on Thanksgiving paid tribute to the men and women of the U.S. military, saying they are continuing the noble tradition of sacrificing to preserve American freedoms and "defend peace around the world."