NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer paid a surprise visit to Baghdad Friday where he opened the alliance's academy that will help train Iraq's fledgling military.

Speaking to troops and officials, Mr. de Hoop Scheffer said NATO is in Iraq on behalf of the Iraqi people, and to help them take their fate into their own hands.

He also stressed the importance of holding elections on January 30 as planned.

NATO currently has about 70 personnel in Iraq, but plans to expand it to include some 300 instructors and a small NATO force to protect them.

Several of the 26-nation alliance's members were opposed to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, and those countries will not participate in the Baghdad mission.

Some information for this story provided by AP and Reuters.